Last time we listed the six best debut seasons in Formula One since the beginning of the millennium. This time we travel back to find out the six worst debut seasons in the sport.
The rules are as followed: Drivers must have completed more than one full season in the sport and their debut season will be compared to their other seasons as well as those of their competitors.
6. Romain Grosjean (Renault - 2009)
Once Nelson Piquet was sacked mid-season, Renault were left with a driver short and with a tarnished reputation. The brand was in tatters. The sponsors withdrew (notably title sponsor ING), star driver Alonso announced a move to Scuderia Ferrari and the second driver role was unoccupied.
Then came forth Romain Grosjean. The French driver helped restore some branding to the French manufacturer, however, it was evidently clear he wasn't ready for the top level. Despite showing he had some raw pace in his seven races, Grosjean only had one and a half seasons of GP2 before stepping into F1.
Ultimately, the Frenchman got his second chance with Lotus in 2012 where he was rebuked as a "first lap nutcase" by Mark Webber. Thankfully, Grosjean matured to be Vettel's nearest rival over the latter half of the 2013 season and is now an established player in F1, potentially lined up to the Scuderia.
5. Christian Klien (Jaguar - 2004)
Klien, the first Austrian driver since Gerhard Berger, had a lot of pressure on him when he was announced as Jaguar's number two for 2004.
Understudy to the experienced Mark Webber, Klien stacked up well against the Australian, becoming the first driver to ever out-qualify him in identical machinery. Come race trim, however, Klien struggled in comparison. Despite only four retirements from 18 races, he struggled to find the ultimate pace, only picking up one points finish, P6 in Belgium.
By contrast. Webber scored an impressive four times in an uncompetitive car. Come the following season, Klien scored well for new owners Red Bull racing.
However, things curtailed for the Austrian in 2006, his third successive season in F1, with only scoring two points with a seventh place the highlight of an underwhelming season. After test roles for Honda and BMW Sauber, Klien made a brief return to racing, contesting three rounds for HRT in 2010.
4. Narain Karthikeyan (Jordan - 2005)
Nowadays Narain Karthikeyan has become one of F1's long standing jokes. A pay driver for a cash strapped Jordan Team, it would be ludicrous to expect anything other than disappointment and lack of points for India's first F1 driver.
Karthikeyan made a few errors, crashing often - at one stage even on a cool down lap! His season highlights were an impressive couple of 11th places and a fourth place finish at the infamous US Grand Prix which featured only six starters. Even including this, Karthikeyan is the only driver not to score a podium in the 2005 Jordan car.
Later in his career, he spent two seasons with HRT, becoming the first Indian driver to race at his home event in 2011. That season was another record breaker for Narain, a 24th place finish in the European Grand Prix at the Valencia street circuit, the lowest of any driver to be classified as a finisher.
One more year in 2012 made little difference to his reputation. Vettel commented at the Malaysian Grand Prix about his erratic style, branding the Indian as an "idiot".
3. Enrique Bernoldi (Arrows - 2001)
The sole man to be included on our worst drivers list, Bernoldi's failures need little detailing. The fact Bernoldi fits the criteria of this list is insulting to a lot of drivers to miss out on F1. From what I can see, Enrique did little to deserve a second year in the sport. Despite 10/17 retirements and no point finishes unlike teammate Jos Verstappen, Bernoldi was retained to partner Heinz-Harald Frentzen for 2002.
Although Bernoldi matched Verstappen on sporadic occasions in 2001, he was outclassed by the man who finished third in the 1999 season. From 29 races, Bernoldi only finished nine times and also failed to qualify once, albeit in a deliberate move by the Arrows team due to financial trouble.
Unsurprisingly, once Arrows had withdrawn from F1, Enrique never saw an F1 seat again. However credit must be gained for the Brazilian's ability to even drive at a level most of us never will.
2. Nick Heidfeld (Prost - 2000)
Spending time as a McLaren test driver comes with a big weight on anybody's shoulders. After securing his first race seat and eager to impress the big bosses, Heidfeld joined the midfield Prost team for the 2000 season. Sadly for the German the season wasn't quite how he would have hoped. Many retirements were suffered as neither him or veteran team mate Jean Alesi managed to score any points throughout the season. The main reason Heidfeld is on this list though is for his numerous collisions with team mate Jean Alesi as he failed to grasp rule one: don't take out your team mate.
In his later career Heidfeld was a consistent podium scorer as he helped Sauber to a fourth place finish in the constructors in 2001 and sealed a move to Williams for 2005. He finished his career with BMW Sauber where he was second to Kubica in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, the team's first victory, and bowed out with Lotus-Renault in 2011. Heidfeld holds the unfortunate record of the most points without a win in F1. If the current scoring system had been used throughout his career he would have scored over 740 points without ever taking victory.
1. Christijan Albers (Minardi - 2005)
Like many others on this list Albers never made it huge. Also like others his seasons was mostly maligned with retirements and uncompetitiveness. Granted this is what you'd expect from a Minardi driver.
The Dutch may have outperformed team mate Patrick Friesacher and scored points in the infamous ill-fated United States Grand Prix, yet Albers wasn't ever truly quick. In his later years he raced alongside Tiago Monteiro, who scored a podium finish for Jordan in the same US race in which Albers scored at Midland F1 Team. In both those seasons he was outperformed by his teammate and after failing to inspire he was fired from Spyker in 2007. His only involvement in F1 since was as a team principal of the now defunct Caterham F1 Team.
by Matthew Gannon