Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Following Jenson Button's revelation he passed up the chance to drive for Ferrari, Crash.net looks at 10 F1 driver moves that never happened...
Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Jenson Button’s revelation that he snubbed the chance to sign for Ferrari got us thinking about other Formula 1 driver moves that failed to materialise.

Button is not alone in being close to landing a Ferrari drive, and his recent admission provided the inspiration to recap some other moves which did not come about but could have had huge repercussions on F1 history.

Here are 10 signings that could have happened, but never did…

Jenson Button to Ferrari

Button said he held discussions with Ferrari’s top brass back in 2012 about a possible switch from arch-rivals McLaren to join the team for the upcoming 2013 campaign, revealing that talks went as far as having a contract drawn up.

Ultimately, Button decided against the move that would have likely seen him partner Fernando Alonso at the Scuderia and instead opted to remain with McLaren, where he would stay until his retirement at the end of the 2016 season.

Ironically, the 2009 world champion did end up becoming teammates with Alonso when the Spaniard quit Ferrari in favour of a second spell at the Woking squad, having been sold the team’s vision to return to winning ways by reviving its doomed engine partnership with Honda in 2015.

Nick Heidfeld to Mercedes or McLaren

13-time F1 podium finisher Nick Heidfeld was considered for a Mercedes drive back in 2010 until the team managed to persuade Michael Schumacher to come out of retirement and make a sensational return to the sport, with Heidfeld subsequently being named as a test driver for the German manufacturer.

After being dumped by BMW Sauber at the end of 2009, Heidfeld also came very close to agreeing terms to become Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at McLaren, that was before Button’s contractual impasse with Brawn GP released the reigning world champion onto the market and scuppered Heidfeld’s hopes.

Heidfeld has had some unfortunate missed opportunities throughout his F1 career, with the German also holding talks with Honda in 2008 to join what would turn out to be the 2009 double world champions Brawn and being snubbed by Mercedes for a second time in 2012 when Niki Lauda’s arrival provided the catalyst to bring Hamilton to the team.

Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Nico Hulkenberg to Mercedes

Last year, F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn revealed that Nico Hulkenberg was Mercedes’ second choice to join the team for the 2013 season if it had been unsuccessful in its attempts to lure Hamilton from McLaren.

Brawn was praising Hulkenberg’s performances as a last-minute substitute for Sergio Perez at both Silverstone races last season when the Racing Point driver was ruled out of the events due to a positive coronavirus test. In the most unlikely circumstances, Hulkenberg made a total of three F1 appearances in 2020 despite not having a contract and even (albeit briefly) found himself being considered for a Red Bull drive in 2021.

Hulkenberg could have also found himself as a contender for a Mercedes 2017 seat had he not just agreed a new deal with Renault two months before Rosberg retired.

It will forever be a question of ‘what could have been’ for Hulkenberg, who would have surely evaded his unwanted record of having the most F1 appearances without a podium had he got the dream call to drive for Mercedes - not to mention the opportunity of finding himself in a position to fight for world championships.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Racing Point F1 Team RP20.
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Racing Point F1 Team RP20.
© xpbimages.com

Robert Kubica to Ferrari

Speaking back in 2018, 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica confirmed he had signed a contract to race with then-Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali to race for the team alongside Alonso in 2012.

The Pole had an agreement in place to leave Renault and join Ferrari but sadly the move never happened as Kubica would go on to suffer his devastating Ronde di Andora rally accident in early 2011 which interrupted his career.

Kubica, who had been tipped as a potential world champion before his crash, did end up securing a remarkable return to the F1 grid with Williams for 2019 after an eight-year absence from the series following the life-changing injuries he sustained.

Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Fernando Alonso to Red Bull

Alonso told Sky F1 in 2018 that he was approached by Red Bull six times throughout his career but rejected the team on each occasion.

The Spaniard claims to have been offered a seat by Red Bull in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and twice in 2018, though Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has insisted that his side only ever approached Alonso once in 2007.

Alonso has also been linked to Mercedes multiple times in the past. He was initially understood to be weighing up a sabbatical year for 2015 in the hope of joining Mercedes the following year upon his Ferrari exit, before ultimately choosing to sign for McLaren.

Speaking to Spanish media, Alonso claimed to have had talks with Toto Wolff but was ruled out as a candidate to replace Nico Rosberg when he announced his shock retirement at the end of 2016.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault F1 Team.
Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault F1 Team.
© xpbimages.com

Jules Bianchi to Sauber and Ferrari

Tragedy prevented highly-rated Ferrari protege Jules Bianchi from making the deserved step up the F1 grid from Marussia.

Bianchi had just been informed of Ferrari’s plans to promote him to Sauber for the 2015 season on the eve of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, before he suffered severe head injuries in a crash during the race and died nine months later.

Ferrari had earmarked Bianchi as a future F1 star and he was on course to drive for the Scuderia in the future.

Promising German Stefan Bellof was also poised to land a Ferrari drive having impressed at Tyrrell during the 1984 and 1985 seasons before he was killed in an accident during a round of the World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps.

Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Sebastian Vettel to Mercedes

As a four-time world champion, there would have been plenty of appeal for a German driver moving to a famous German name, but the closest Sebastian Vettel will seemingly get to a Mercedes is the engine that will power his Aston Martin F1 car in 2021.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff’s refusal to rule out signing Vettel for 2021 early last year sparked the F1 rumour mill into overdrive, with suggestions the German could replace either Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas, both of whom were yet to agree new deals beyond the end of the season.

Wolff admitted that Mercedes must take Vettel’s Ferrari exit “into consideration” but the team ultimately decided to renew Bottas’ contract, while Hamilton remains in talks with the reigning world champions. Vettel instead signed for the rebranded Aston Martin squad.

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari.
(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with Sebastian Vettel (GER)…
© xpbimages.com

Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari

Hamilton has been linked with Ferrari for much of his career, having been open about his admiration and love for Ferrari cars, but that ship appears to have well and truly sailed.

The rumours were at an all-time peak at the end of the 2019 season when Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that Hamilton’s availability for 2021 “can only make us happy”.

While Hamilton did speak with Ferrari chairman John Elkann in 2019, he explained last year that the door to his previous dream of one day driving for Ferrari had effectively been closed because he did not feel he and the Scuderia shared the same “values”.

Despite not yet putting pen to paper on a new Mercedes deal, Hamilton is understood to be fully committed to the German manufacturer and has previously stated he wants to remain part of the team’s family “forever”.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W11 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF1000.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W11 and Sebastian Vettel (GER)…
© xpbimages.com

Ayrton Senna to Ferrari

Ayrton Senna urged Ferrari’s sporting director Jean Todt to sign him ahead of the fateful 1994 F1 season despite the team already having two drivers under contract.

Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo claimed Senna had also spoken to him about joining the Maranello outfit in early 1994, insisting he was desperate to end his career at the famous team.

Senna ultimately never got the chance to make the move to Ferrari for the following year, with the Brazilian tragically losing his life in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Asked what his greatest regret was from his days at the helm of Ferrari, di Montezemelo told Sky Italia: “Not having signed Ayrton Senna.”

Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Michael Schumacher to McLaren

Former McLaren chief Ron Dennis revealed in 2016 that Michael Schumacher had provisionally agreed to leave Ferrari to join his team in the late 1990s.

Had the move come off it would have likely changed the course of F1 history, with Schumacher going head-to-head with fierce rival Mika Hakkinen in the same car.

“When he was already driving for Ferrari, Michael and I agreed for him to drive for McLaren,” Dennis told the official F1 website.

“Our meeting took place not during the grand prix weekend; no, we met secretly at a Monaco hotel at another time.

“But in the end it did not work out because his management insisted on controlling his image rights – they basically wanted to retain them all, plus get paid a lot of money of course.

“That was disappointing. I think Mika and Michael would have been a truly fabulous driver line-up.”

Having remained at Ferrari, Schumacher went on to claim five successive world championships titles between 2000 and 2005 to make him the most successful F1 driver of all time.

Button to Ferrari and nine other F1 driver moves that never happened

Read More