With Davide Brivio trading two wheels for four and making the rare switch from MotoGP management to Formula 1, we’ve taken a look at some other uncommon hires made by teams, both from within the sport and outside it.

Some worked out very well, others less so…

Jost Capito - McLaren CEO

Jost Capito had a short-lived tenure as CEO of McLaren Racing in 2016, where he lasted just five months before he became a victim of the team’s decision to split with Ron Dennis.

The German is one of motorsport’s most decorated managers outside of F1 with stints heading up Ford and Volkswagen’s title-winning campaigns in the World Rally Championship, while he also had a hand in BMW, Porsche and Sauber’s success in sportscars during the 1980s and 1990s.

So far at least, Capito’s foray into F1 has not quite managed to hit those heights. Let’s hope things improve when he returns to the grid once again this year with Williams, having been named CEO in one of the Grove squad’s first major appointments of its new era.

Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda - Mercedes

Ahead of the 2013 F1 season, it was announced that Toto Wolff was to become a shareholder and executive director of the Mercedes team following his departure from Williams.

The Austrian replaced Norbert Haug to help manage Mercedes’ F1 team alongside team principal Ross Brawn. The three-pronged leadership proved to be an interesting decision by Mercedes, and it ultimately laid the foundations for Brawn’s exit, who quickly found himself at odds with the direction taken by Wolff and Lauda.

There was no official ‘team principal’ title at Mercedes between 2014 and 2016 as Wolff, Lauda and technical boss Paddy Lowe continued to oversee the F1 operation before Wolff eventually morphed into the position. Mercedes has never looked back, with Wolff cementing himself as one of the sport’s most influential team bosses, playing an instrumental role in ensuring the continuation of the team’s domination of the V6 hybrid era.

Christijan Albers - Caterham

Following Tony Fernandes’ decision to sell Caterham to a Swiss-Middle Eastern consortium advised by Colin Kolles in July 2014, ex-F1 driver Christijan Albers was named team principal in a bizarre move.

Albers, who started 45 grands prix with Minardi and Kolles-run Midland/Spyker teams between 2005 and 2007, had no former management experience in F1 yet was tasked with improving the fortunes of the team which had been anchored to the bottom of the grid, replacing Cyril Abiteboul.

The Dutchman’s tenure at the helm of Caterham lasted just 67 days before he “resigned for private reasons” - bringing to an end a rather unmemorable spell. There would be more abnormal goings-on at Caterham later in the year when administrator Finbarr O’Connell also served as interim team principal as part of a failed bid to save Caterham from its eventual demise.

Alex Tai - Virgin Racing

Following the launch of Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team in F1, the group’s director of special projects and Virgin Galactic founder Alex Tai was drafted into the role of team principal.

Operating within a £40million budget - around £100m less than Brawn spent in its championship-winning season the previous year - starting life in F1 was always going to be tough for Virgin.

But Tai would not even make the opening race of the team’s debut season. Less than a month after being named team principal at Virgin Racing’s launch in December 2009, he left the position, saying that he was focused on “finding new opportunities and the challenge of starting new ventures”. He was subsequently replaced by John Booth.

Maurizio Arrivabene - Ferrari

At the end of the 2014 season, and after only eight months in charge, Ferrari replaced Marco Mattiacci with Maurizio Arrivabene.

Known to Ferrari best through his work at main sponsor and tobacco giant Philip Morris, where he was vice-president, the Italian was brought in to Maranello in a move instigated by Sergio Marchionne, who had just taken over as the Scuderia’s new chairman.

Despite his lack of experience in F1, Arrivabene successfully helped to turn Ferrari’s fortunes around, as the Italian outfit bounced back from its first winless season since 1993 with three victories scored by new signing Sebastian Vettel in 2015.

In the four years Arrivabene held the position, the team enjoyed a revival in competitiveness. But a failure to deliver a title in 2018 after notable driver and management errors led to the Italian’s downfall amid a power struggle between himself and successor Mattia Binotto.

Gerard Lopez - Lotus F1 Team

When Eric Boullier left for McLaren, Lotus co-chairman and co-owner Gerard Lopez stepped in to fill the vacated team principal position on the eve of the 2014 season.

Lopez, who runs the Genii Capital investment group that owned Lotus, combined his role on the board with being the F1 team principal amid a raft of financial problems that saw the team plunge into £114m of debt and lose Kimi Raikkonen two races before the end of 2013 in a dispute over unpaid salary.

Lotus struggled for competitiveness at the start of F1’s new V6 hybrid era and slumped to eighth place in the constructors’ championship. A switch to Mercedes engines helped improve the competitive picture for the following year before the team was re-purchased by Groupe Renault, paving the way for an official Renault factory return for 2016 and both Lopez’s and Genii Capital’s exit.

Andreas Seidl - McLaren

The signing of Andreas Seidl proved to be an important capture for McLaren’s recent upturn in fortunes as CEO Zak Brown successfully lured the German away from Porsche’s World Endurance Championship programme in what was a rather left-field, masterstroke move.

Despite a lack of F1 experience, Seidl arrived at Woking with a proven track record in sports cars, having led Porsche to three WEC drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles in 2015-2017, as well as three successive Le Mans 24 Hours triumphs.

Seidl began work with McLaren as team principal in May 2019 and immediately made an impression, guiding the British outfit to the front of F1’s midfield and its first podium finish in five years after a bitterly disappointing 2018 campaign. McLaren continued its impressive upward trajectory in 2020 as Seidl oversaw yet more progress, capped off by the team clinching third place in the constructors’ championship.

Alain Prost - Prost Grand Prix

A slight side step, as Alain Prost bought a team rather than being hired by it, but the four-time world champion enjoyed a positive start to life as an eponymous team manager having purchased the existing Ligier team ahead of the 1997 season to form Prost Grand Prix, overseeing a pair of podium results with Olivier Panis in the first six races.

However, with its own car to design and a switch to Peugeot power as part of an exclusive deal for 1998, Prost Grand Prix quickly began its decline, with points' finishes becoming scarce, a single further podium at the 1999 European Grand Prix being followed by an entirely point-less season in 2000. Despite better fortune in 2001 with a switch to Ferrari power - under the Acer banner - Prost Grand Prix folded at the end of the year.

Along with Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Jack Brabham, Prost - who later became co-owner of the Renault e.dams Formula E team and senior team manager of the Renault F1 squad - may have been among the group of more successful drivers to try their hand at management, but the Frenchman ultimately labelled his foray into team ownership as the “biggest mistake” of his career.

 

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