Revealed: Five shocking F1 driver moves that turned out for the better

Sam Cooper
Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher

All three of these were awarded with a driver’s title after making their move.

As the world eagerly awaits to see how Lewis Hamilton gets on at Ferrari, we have taken a look back at five times a surprise transfer has been pulled off.

Hamilton is a year away from making one of the most sensational moves in F1 history but everyone is waiting to see just whether he can drag Ferrari back into contention.

But before then, has gone back over the annals of time to take a look at five times a leap of faith paid off for the driver.

Niki Lauda – Retirement to McLaren – 1982

In 1979, Niki Lauda had had enough of Formula 1. Having won the title in 1975 and 1977, the Austrian was taking part in practice for the Canadian Grand Prix before he got out of the car and told Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone he was done “driving around in circles.” And off he went.

That seemed the end of a remarkable career in which Lauda had come back from his horrendous Nurburgring accident to race once more but at the age of 30, there were plenty who still thought he had more to give.

Some of those of that opinion worked for McLaren and in 1982, they tempted Lauda back out of retirement, made easy by a record $3 million salary, but more than the financial benefits, Lauda was at the start of a golden era for the team.

The MP4/2 would be a monumental car in the team’s history, bringing Alain Prost two of his first four world titles and in 1984, Lauda pipped Prost by half a point to win his third.

Nigel Mansell – Ferrari to Williams – 1991

Looking back at Nigel Mansell’s career, much of it can be summed up by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the 1980s, Mansell was certainly worthy of winning a world title during spells at both Williams and Ferrari, the only problem was McLaren were in the most dominant period of their history.

Lauda, Senna and Prost all won titles as McLaren produced cars like the MP4/4 and all the while, Mansell was on the outside looking in.

But things changed in 1991. After two seasons at Ferrari, Mansell returned to Williams where he was given the FW14, which just so happened to have been designed by one Adrian Newey.

For the first time, McLaren looked vulnerable with Mansell finishing behind only Senna in 1991. The following year he went one better. Finally given that genuine title shot that he craved, Mansell’s FW14B was a technological wonder with semi-automatic transmission, active suspension and traction control.

The moustached man won nine races, triple the amount of P2 Senna, and won that dream first title. And then it was happily ever after, right?

Alain Prost – Sabbatical to Williams – 1993

Wrong. Mansell famously fell out with owner Frank Williams and became one of the rare times a World Champion did not attempt to defend his title and who should take his place? Alain Prost.

Prost was off the back of a year’s sabbatical having got the sack from Ferrari in 1991 but was paid money to ensure he did not race for a rival in 1992.

As he was sitting on the sidelines, Prost would have been watching the going-ons at Williams and seeing that Mansell was heading for the US, the Frenchman packed his bags for Grove.

With a contract that prevented old rival Ayrton Senna from joining, Prost was the lead driver at Williams alongside Damon Hill, so he had free rein to compete for another world title.

Prost won seven races that season, two more than Senna, and secured his fourth world title which was second to only Juan Manuel Fangio’s record before finally retiring at the end of the season. recommends

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Michael Schumacher – Benetton to Ferrari – 1996

As has often been the case in their two careers, there are parallels between Michael Schumacher’s move to Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton’s next year.

In 1996, Schumacher was a back-to-back World Champion with Benetton but tensions with team-mate Jos Verstappen and an underperforming Renault engine had made the German open to a move away and Ferrari came calling.

But Ferrari was the very definition of a sleeping giant. It had been 13 years since Ferrari had tasted silverware, even longer for any Ferrari driver to win the title and resurrecting this beast fell on the shoulders of Schumacher.

He was of course not alone. Jean Todt would prove to be the perfect choice of team principal while Ross Brawn opted to follow Schumacher across from Benetton.

The eventual result was five consecutive world titles and an ascension of Schumacher from great to god.

Lewis Hamilton – McLaren to Mercedes – 2013

Of course, Hamilton is no stranger to an audacious move and has actually made the most successful swap in F1 history.

To understand how crazy it seemed to make such a transfer, you have to remember that McLaren was one of the sport’s heavy hitters while Mercedes were coming back to the sport after a 54-year hiatus.

But it was the vision sold to Hamilton by Lauda that made him move across. He knew the engines that Mercedes had been working on for the 2014 regulation change and when that season arrived, Mercedes and Hamilton gripped the title race and never let go.

Hamilton would win all but one title from 2014 to 2020, seeing him equal Schumacher’s record, and the triumphs made Hamilton and Mercedes the best driver-team pairing in F1 history.

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