Halfway through the season, Manor announced that they would be replacing Indonesian Rio Haryanto with Mercedes young driver Esteban Ocon. It is therefore timely to profile the six best mid-season driver transfers of recent times.
6. Daniel Ricciardo - HRT 2011
While nowadays Daniel Ricciardo is known as Red Bull's newest race winner, back in 2011 the honey badger was debuting for a much different team. Backmarker Hispania Racing decided to run the Red Bull junior for the latter half of the season.
After debuting at Silverstone Ricciardo performed respectably compared to his experienced teammates Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Not only did this provided experience at F1 level for the Australian, it also helped Hispania alleviate some of their financial troubles via backing from the Austrian company.
It is argued that this experience helped turn the Australian from an above average junior driver to the race winner and potential future world champion that we see in the Red Bull today. And whilst he may not have brought any points finishes for Hispania, the positive effects given to Red Bull have easily made this move one of the best mid-season transfers - not just of the modern era but of all time.
5. Giancarlo Fisichella - Ferrari 2009
After Felipe Massa suffered the tragedy that was the spring off Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP car which ended his 2009 season, Ferrari were in need of a driver after long time test driver and Massa's replacement Luca Badoer failed to finish any higher than last place.
Considering Fisichella's phenomenal poor position and later podium whilst piloting the back of the grid Force India, the Scuderia decided that for their home race in Monza, they would run an Italian driver. And who better to choose than Giancarlo, a lifelong Ferrari fan, who by starting the Grand Prix would fulfil a boyhood dream.
Giancarlo never scored points for Ferrari, ninth place on debut was his best result - and what a place to achieve at his and his team's home race. Considering back then only the first eight drivers scored points he was deeply unlucky not to get anything from the race. Whilst this transfer may have not brought success for driver or the team, the sheer fulfilment of Fisichella's dream made this an inspiring and brilliant move.
His new association with Ferrari led to a successful career in sportscar racing, with Fisichella twice winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in his class.
4. Robert Kubica - BMW Sauber 2006
Jacques Villeneuve was a world champion, race winner and a well respected member of the Formula 1 paddock (the latter of which he has now lost). Having shot to fame with Williams, Villeneuve jumped ship to rich new team British American Racing (BAR) and later on for Sauber.
In 2006 German automotive giants BMW bought a controlling stake in the Swiss outfit and with it a German driver in Nick Heidfeld. Throughout the season poor results and a tiff with senior management led to BMW making as change, out went the Canadian world champion and in came a young Polish upstart called Robert Kubica. For Hungary, while Villeneuve was deemed unfit to race against his belief following his crash in Germany, shortly before Kubica was able to qualify ninth and out-race his more experienced teammate Nick Heidfeld. Following such a strong showing, Villeneuve departed the team and Kubica went on to take a podium in only his third race and would later take the team's first win in 2008.
Kubica was predicted for great things until a rally accident ended his career in F1 in early 2011, although closed cockpit racing is no longer possible for Kubica who suffered a partially severed hand as a result of the crash, the Pole is deeply popular and a true favourite of the modern era.
3. Max Verstappen - Red Bull 2016
Prior to the summer break, this was the most recent of the driver swaps. Following a disastrous Russian Grand Prix, Daniil Kvyat was demoted back to the sister Toro Rosso team while teenage starlet 'Mad Max' Verstappen got a shot at the big team.
Verstappen started in fine form as the second-generation driver won on his Red Bull debut, the first time a driver won his debut race for a new team since Fernando Alonso triumphed in Bahrain 2010 for Ferrari.
Since then Max has caused controversy over his erratic defending, particularly with blocking and brake checking Kimi Raikkonen in both Hungary and Belgium. Despite some comparisons to legends like Schumacher and Senna, Max's approach is often labelled as dangerous. Unless Max can sort out his tendency to play dirty and allow his natural talent to shine through, he may well be finding comparisons to a young Romain Grosjean as a race long nutcase rather than a legend of the future.
2. Mika Salo - Ferrari 1999
Come opening day of the 1999 season at Albert Park, Tyrrell had collapsed and were bought out by BAR, and Salo was left without a drive and surplus to requirements. Fortunately for the Finn his old team BAR were in need of a driver when Ricardo Zonta was out for three races with a foot injury. Born the year of England's sole World Cup triumph, Salo was drafted in as an experienced partner to Jacques Villeneuve. After three races with a best finish of seventh (points could have been possible if it wasn't for an electronics failure).
After the British Grand Prix, however, a better offer came for Salo, one that coincided perfectly with Zonta's return, as Ferrari were needing a new driver after world championship leader and 1999 champion elect Michael Schumacher would miss all but two of the remaining races following a leg break in practice. Salo would play the perfect number two to Ferrari's new challenger Eddie Irvine.
Over his six races for Ferrari he took two podiums, one at the home of the Tifosis, and was even looking like a race winner in Germany until he was required to yield for title challenger Irvine. This transfer not only helped Ferrari revive a title scrap they never envisaged partaking in, it also allowed Salo to find a full time drive for Sauber in 2000 and later for Toyota in order to finish his career how he wanted to.
1. Sebastian Vettel - Toro Rosso 2007
Yes, although Vettel debuted as a one-off replacement for Kubica in the U.S. Grand Prix in a BMW Sauber, the true genius came from Red Bull who decided to buy out his contract and replace American Scott Speed for the remainder of 2007.
Debuting in Hungary Vettel struggled initially, but eventually scored points with a stunning fourth place in China. In Japan, a rain soaked Fuji track that was reminiscent of the incredible 1976 title decider between Hunt and Lauda, Vettel crashed into Red Bull's Mark Webber following some questionable antics behind the safety car by race leader Lewis Hamilton when running in third place.
Despite this, Vettel secured a race win the following season with Toro Rosso, the first win for either of the Red Bull group teams and would go on to win a historic four consecutive titles and truly cement his place amongst all of F1's greats. Not bad for a mid-season driver change.
by Matthew Gannon