Last time out in Monaco Jenson Button didn't exactly set the world alight, but earned McLaren a large amount of media time. There's no doubt that Button has the talent, and by qualifying ninth he showed he still has the pace to compete at that level.
But Honda's engine ruined his weekend, consigning him to last on the grid. After spending over 50 laps behind Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein, he eventually got frustrated, lunged at Portier and sent the 22-year-old into the barriers on his side. Button limped down the tunnel before pulling off himself at the Nouvelle chicane, capping off a tiresome race day.
So, here we take a look at six drivers who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made the most of their time in the seat.
6. Markus Winkelhock
Part of the German Winkelhock racing lineage, Markus made his one and only F1 appearance at the Nurburgring. Drafted into the flailing Spyker team in place of Christijan Albers, he crazily holds the record of leading every race he participated in (the only driver to ever achieve this).
Now, you're probably thinking how did he led in a Spyker, a car that rarely graced the top half of the grid and scored some extremely sporadic points. Well in case you don't know here is the story of how an unproved German holds one of F1’s most prestigious of records.
Qualifying last, 1.5 seconds down on teammate Adrian Sutil, Winkelhock's expectations were no mightier than an afternoon of trundling mobile chicanery. However, inspired opportunism by Spyker Technical Director Mike Gascoyne at the end of the formation lap saw the team pit Winkelhock for wet tyres as rain began to fall ahead of the start.
In an image more associated with Spa-Francorchamps, the spots of rain became monsoon, and Spyker's gamble turned into a masterstroke. So slippery was the circuit that Kimi Raikkönen slid straight through the pit entrance as the leaders flocked to the pits to change tyres at the end of lap one.
Winkelhock quickly took control, overtaking Raikkonen's limping Ferrari as heavy rain conditions took hold. By the end of the second lap, Winkelhock's Spyker led Felipe Massa by over 19 seconds. This only increased as a plethora of cars aquaplaned straight on at turn one. Winkelhock, meanwhile, retained his composure and crucially his traction to extend his lead to a mighty 33 seconds by lap 4.
With seven cars in the gravel trap at the first turn, the race was finally stopped on lap 5, obliterating Winkelhock's lead. After his success rate last time, Spyker kept Winkelhock on full wets for the restart, but on a drying track the winning rout ended. Winkelhock was engulfed by Massa and Fernando Alonso into turn one, and quickly fell further back as his tyres disintegrated and with it one of F1's craziest hours.
Winkelhock's adventure was ended by a hydraulic failure on lap 13, and it would be his final race in F1, the team's poor financial status meaning he was discarded by Spyker ahead of the next race in favour of Sakon Yamamoto's crucial sponsorship (A new era of pay drivers was only just beginning).
Despite this though he made F1 his own and in a home race became F1's ultimate underdog and is the biggest cult hero of the millennium thus far.
5. Kamui Kobayashi
Arguably the last driver to leave an instant impression was Kamui Kobayashi, drafted in to Toyota for the final two races of 2009 after Timo Glock suffered fractured vertebrae in a qualifying accident at Suzuka.
Kobayashi had been Toyota's test and reserve driver since the start of the 2008 season, but after a couple of years in GP2 which left a lot to be desired, he was something of an unknown quantity ahead of his F1 debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
After qualifying a respectable 11th in a rain-delayed session, Kobayashi would capture the headlines by playing a part in the title battle. Running an impressive sixth, Kobayashi delayed championship-chasing Button's progress through the field by hyper-aggressive defending into the first corner.
Kobayashi's refusal to be cowed earned him plaudits, although the praise was tempered by a block on countryman Kazuki Nakajima which indirectly caused the Williams driver's retirement.
In Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi's stock rose further, as he established his trademark proclivity for last of the late braking overtakes. Qualifying twelfth, Kobayashi drove steadily and maturely, and spectacularly went wheel to wheel with World Champion Button for the second race running.
More importantly, Kobayashi brought the car home in sixth place for his first points, finishing ahead of veteran teammate Jarno Trulli, and sufficiently impressing Toyota's bosses to be under consideration for a full race seat in 2010, with his Japanese nationality only helping his cause for a Toyota drive.
Despite the Japanese marquee's subsequent withdrawal from F1, Kobayashi found a home at Sauber for the next three seasons and Caterham for 2014.
He never quite looked as crazy and skilled as initial impressions showed, however a huge home podium in 2012 and a debut Q2 appearance for Caterham are just two cases where Kamikaze Kamui showed his pace and ability to compete at the top.
4. David Coulthard
F1's second most successful Scotsman began his career as a fresh face. Ex-F3000 driver with a massive void to fill, that of charismatic Brazilian Ayrton Senna, Coulthard' debut came in Spain where he qualified in P8.
He looked odds on to score points until an engine failure ended the dream. Despite this setback Coulthard would score a fifth place next time out in Canada. Coulthard shared the remainder of the season with 1992 champion and British compatriot Nigel Mansell. When Coulthard did race he scored a fifth on his home race and ended the season with a second place in Portugal.
His talent didn't go unnoticed, winning awards such as ITV young sportsman of the year and BBC Scottish Sports Personality of the year for 1994.
Coulthard would go on to embark on a successful career with McLaren and later Red Bull. He was also up until Lewis Hamilton (who raced at a time where the points system was more favourable) the highest scoring British driver in F1 history.
3. Robert Kubica
In late 2005, BMW announced they had bought a majority share in the team and thus BMW Sauber was born. They inherited all the contracts and infrastructure associated with the Sauber team, including Jacques Villeneuve. With Massa at Ferrari and Frentzen retired, BMW got their German hotshot Nick Heidfeld and partnered him alongside the 1997 world champion.
Like many today BMW weren't all that keen on Jacques and felt he needed replacing. Tensions rose between the two throughout the season until it hit breaking point. After an injury sustained in a crash in Germany, Villeneuve was replaced by the new kid on the block, Poland's Robert Kubica, for the following round in Hungary.
In his first qualifying session Kubica managed to head into Q3 ending up P9, ahead of his more experienced team mate Heidfeld. Speculation about his race performances were rife, however. When the rain begun to fall the expectations dropped, not only did Kubica have only a few months of testing under his belt, all of them were in the dry.
Having never driven an F1 car in the wet before, Kubica drove his BMW to a stunning P7 in the first ever wet race at the Hungaroring. In a race where chaos ensued and all the heavy hitters were aquaplaning off or breaking down, the young Pole held his own.
Despite this Kubica was disqualified after his car was found to be under the minimum weight limit. Days later it was announced Villeneuve had left BMW citing that he didn't want a "shootout" with Kubica and that he had proven himself already (many however dispute this and believe the tensions became too much and he walked out on the team, even faking the injury to make the transition more reputable for him).
With a drive now his own Kubica excelled, heading on to achieve a podium in Monza, his third race. Furthermore he was the first Pole to ever lead a Grand Prix or to take a podium finish as well as being the first driver [of any nationality] since Alex Wurz to take a podium in his first three races.
He went on to be a regular scorer in 2007 despite a mega shunt in the Canadian Grand Prix (which went on to hand a debut to a certain Sebastian Vettel in the following weeks US Grand Prix) and then he took his, BMW Sauber's and Poland's first ever race win and held a title fight all the way to the final two rounds, outperforming his car to live with the far superior Ferraris and McLarens en route to fourth in the championship.
Unfortunately a rally crash ended a promising young driver’s career all while rumours of a Ferrari drive were really picking up speed. Thankfully just a few days ago he completed his first F1 test since the crash in a 2012 Lotus. Many people dream that he will even for one season return as a driver, but even doing more test sessions will be a victory for the Pole and for his fans.
2. Michael Schumacher
The most successful driver in the sport's history, at second place? It's not his record that puts him in P2 on our list but rather his team’s contribution. Drafted in by Mercedes (via a €150,000 paycheque) to run for Jordan in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix after Bertrand Gachot was imprisoned, Schumacher qualified an immense seventh place, even more extraordinary when his teammate Andrea de Cesaris was down in 11th, almost a second off the young Germans ultimate pace.
Unfortunately for Schumacher a clutch issue meant he never completed a racing lap in his Jordan. To add further to the disappointment that was it, Schumacher left the team with zero race laps completed, hardly the lasting legacy that he has now some 26 years later.
It was not for the want of trying, Mercedes and Jordan agreed Schumi would see out 1991 with the Irish team. Despite this a contract was not fully signed when Benetton came knocking, signing Schumacher to replace Roberto Moreno (who qualified one place behind Schumacher at Belgium the race previous). Obviously unhappy by the deal, Jordan took legal action against Benetton however as there was no formal contract made by them for the German’s services, Schumacher was free to compete for Benetton.
After four points in six races Schumacher’s whereabouts was once more up in air as Sauber entered Formula One. As random an event this seems Sauber were powered by Mercedes, the company that brought Schumacher into F1 in the first place. Due to this there was a contract clause that should they enter F1, Schumacher would be a driver for them. Michael however was not so keen on moving to Sauber - a backwards step he felt - and as it was not a works Mercedes team it was agreed Schumacher would remain with Benetton.
This was a fruitful move as it was with Benetton that Schumacher won his first two titles in 1994 and 1995. He later moved to Ferrari where, after a few close calls in '96, '97 and '99, he won five consecutive titles between 2000 and 2004. As in agreement to his contract he signed almost 20 years earlier when Mercedes entered F1 in 2010, Schumacher returned from retirement after a three season absence. After one pole position and a handful of podiums later he called time for good at the end of 2012, rejecting an offer to sign for cash-strapped Lotus (the same company that once was Benetton) in 2014.
1. Riccardo Patrese
While Patrese's record is far inferior to that of Schumacher’s - in fact a few years at a top team as a number 2 is hardly the most boastful of CVs in racing. What makes Patrese's story so iconic though is how he earned his drive at Williams.
Debuting in 1977 for back marking Shadow team, Patrese made a handful of appearances, sharing his drive with five other drivers. Competing more rounds in the #16 Shadow than the other five it was looking like a poor season for Shadow. Sure Zorzi nabbed a single point but it was Alan Jones who excelled, taking a third place podium in Italy and an underdog's win in Austria. H
eading into the final round though a young Ricardo Patrese managed to keep his car going where others around him broke down and took P6, a single point to cap off a debut season. This earned him a move to arrows where he secured his first podium (P2 in Sweden) and 11 points in his first season with the team.
After a further three podiums in as many years with Arrows, Patrese impressed a certain Bernie Ecclestone enough to earn a seat with Brabham. Over his two seasons there he took his first win in Monaco in his opening season with the team and a second at Kyalami, South Africa in his second and finale.
Following this Patrese moved on to the Alfa Romeo-powered Benetton team, earning a reputation for being a bit of a journeyman. Patrese stayed wit the team for two years, sporadically scoring point results and a solitary podium with third place in his home Italian Grand Prix.
Unfortunately his second season with them was a truly pointless one - Patrese's first in F1 - which proved to be the final score with the Italian announcing a return to Brabham for 1986.
Unfortunately Brabham weren't as successful as in his last stint - 8 points in two years and just one podium in Mexico in 1987 made this stint no worse than his previous one with Benetton. Amidst all the average results Patrese earned enough attention to be called up to Williams one race early, replacing Nigel Mansell who was out injured following an accident at Suzuka.
Some 10 years after debuting the veteran Italian finished last of the classified finishers (although an oil leak six laps from home meant he didn't see the flag hence pushing him down to ninth).
Over his five years at Williams he recorded 24 podiums with four of those being wins as well as career best championship finishes with a second in 1992 and third in 1991. A swansong year with Benetton in 1993 was less successful as Patrese only racked up 20 points. Despite this he scored three podiums and took fifth in the standings, although he was behind young German Michael Schumacher.
Remaining on good terms with Williams he was offered a drive following Ayrton Senna's death in 1994 which he politely declined. His interest in F1 never declined though. Testing for the team in 1996 and reportedly setting laps quick enough for a top 4 start in the British Grand Prix that year. The fact Patrese retired as the driver with at the time the most race starts (256 from 257 entries) and worked his way from the back to the front, using a super sub-appearance to land himself a seat in the all dominating 1992 Williams to make his impression as an unsung hero of F1.
by Matthew Gannon