Where are they now? The last 21 drivers to leave Formula 1

Henry Valantine
Where Are They Now? Formula 1 feature, April 2023.

(L to R) Pascal Wehrlein, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Marcus Ericsson.

Drivers coming and going from the Formula 1 grid is a big part of the sport, with some choosing to retire and others leaving because they have to, rather than because they want to.

The ‘musical chairs’ element of F1 is a part of what makes it so special, with only 20 seats and dozens of drivers from around the world wanting to fill them.

Of course, some of the drivers included on this list still have a desire to find themselves back on the grid in future – and some may well do so, with Robert Kubica gaining a full-time drive with Williams after eight years away back in 2019.

We were going to look back at the last 20 full-time drivers to leave the sport, but going back to the end of the 2016 season saw us up to 21 – and we thought it would be unfair to leave one out (with apologies to Rio Haryanto, who left Manor partway through 2016 and was replaced by Esteban Ocon), so 21 it is.

So, with a lot of drivers to have a look at, let us begin taking a look at what these former F1 talents are up to now in their lives and careers.

*Only full-time Formula 1 drivers are included in this list, so reserve drivers with stand-in race appearances such as Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi are not included, while the likes of Jenson Button and Robert Kubica made the cut-off as full-timers but also made one-off returns later as stand-ins.

Esteban Gutierrez

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2016

While Esteban Gutierrez lost his race seat with Haas at the end of 2016, he was consistently in the Formula 1 paddock afterwards as reserve and development driver for Mercedes, a position he held all the way up to the end of last season.

His overall racing appearances have been fairly limited since he left a full-time F1 drive, with intermittent appearances in Formula E and IndyCar followed up with more of an involvement in endurance racing last year.

Gutierrez and his CrowdStrike Racing by APR team-mates took second in the LMP2 class at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year, finishing behind a Proton team which contained ex-F1 favourite, Gianmaria Bruni.

Felipe Nasr

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2016

Felipe Nasr’s final F1 race came when he was only 24, not having his contract with Sauber renewed at the end of 2016 after just the one points finish that season – a P9 placing at home in Brazil.

But with a long career still ahead of him, he has made a solid step into endurance racing and become a title winner on multiple occasions since.

The Brazilian has won two IMSA titles with Cadillac, in 2018 and 2021 respectively, before moving to the World Endurance Championship in the LMP2 class last season.

Now a Porsche factory driver, he headed back to IMSA this year with Porsche Penske Motorsport, finishing fifth in the standings, and retired from the the Le Mans 24 Hours in the Hypercar class in the all-new Porsche 963.

Nico Rosberg

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2016

To be fair, finishing your career as a World Champion is pretty much the way most people would like to end their F1 stints – and that’s exactly what Nico Rosberg did when he shocked the paddock when he announced his retirement after taking the 2016 title in a titanic battle with Mercedes team-mate and rival, Lewis Hamilton.

Since then, ‘retirement’ has seen Rosberg branch out into entrepreneurship, broadcasting and creating his own YouTube channel, having walked away from driving after the mental toll of winning the World Championship.

He and Hamilton still go toe-to-toe in a different way, as team owners in the sustainable off-road Extreme E series, with the German founding the Rosberg X Racing team which took the inaugural Extreme E title in 2021.

Rosberg has been a regular on Formula 1 TV coverage since he retired from the sport – still holding potent opinions on the goings-on in the paddock. He also uploads regular vlogs on YouTube and looks to champion sustainability in multiple business ventures.

Jenson Button

Last Formula 1 entry: Monaco, 2017

The 2009 World Champion retired from F1 at the end of 2016, but Jenson Button found himself back in the cockpit for McLaren when Fernando Alonso decided to have a tilt at the Indy 500 in 2017.

“I’m going to pee in your seat!” Came the radio call from the Briton to his former team-mate when they spoke prior to his substitute appearance, which would prove to be his 306th and final start in F1 – bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought him 15 race victories.

But Button said earlier this year that he has always seen himself as a racing driver rather than solely a Formula 1 driver, and he has been true to his word since retiring from the top class, taking part in a multitude of series since.

He’s taken on the Japanese Super GT series, Extreme E (also founding his own team, JBXE), Le Mans, Nitro Rallycross, British GT, DTM and NASCAR – taking the plunge in the American stock car series for the first time in 2023 at the Circuit of The Americas.

Button returned to Le Mans in June with a NASCAR twist, forming part of an all-star Garage 56 line-up with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and ex-Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller in a tuned version of the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Having had permission from home, the former McLaren, Brawn and Honda driver will be making a full-time racing return in 2024, joining the World Endurance Championship grid with Hertz Team Jota in a Porsche 963.

Jolyon Palmer

Last Formula 1 entry: Japan, 2017

Jolyon Palmer’s second season as a driver was brought to a premature end after Renault opted to bring Carlos Sainz to the team a few races early, having already signed him to a seat from 2018, but Palmer has since become an authoritative voice in F1 broadcasting.

Working for different Formula 1 broadcasters, including F1’s own official channels, his technical analysis and punditry have become a popular feature of race coverage for fans in the years since he stepped out of the cockpit.

He joined the BBC in time for 2018, but has worked for F1 TV for the past four years as the former GP2 champion’s career has blossomed away from the track.

Felipe Massa

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2017

Felipe Massa’s long and storied F1 career came to an end in 2017 after 269 race starts and 11 race victories, rounding out his time in the sport with Williams.

Since then, Massa has had a tilt at taking on Formula E, but he has continued racing back in his native Brazil for the most part, in the Stock Car Pro Series.

The former Ferrari driver is still a semi-regular visitor to the F1 paddock following his retirement, but keeps up his racing chops in the Stock Car series back in Brazil.

However, he is currently challenging the outcome of the 2008 World Championship in the courts after an interview Bernie Ecclestone gave in 2023 commenting on the ‘Crashgate’ scandal in Singapore that season.

Pascal Wehrlein

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2017

Pascal Wehrlein arrived in F1 not as the Formula 2 champion, or even a single-seater champion, but as winner of DTM the previous year, when he joined Manor.

He earned a drive with Sauber for 2017 but his Formula 1 career would not stretch into a third season, heading back to the German touring car series alongside a full-time schedule in Formula E, where he has competed ever since.

Now in Formula E, 2023 was his best campaign in the all-electric series, finishing fourth in the championship.

Marcus Ericsson

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2018

While Marcus Ericsson never got to taste any champagne on the podium as a Formula 1 driver across five seasons with Caterham and Sauber, he did get to sample some milk last year as the winner of the Indianapolis 500.

The Swede is now in his fifth IndyCar season and his points tally in the category has grown year on year, with his win at the Indy 500 last year being a proud achievement in his time in America so far – ticking off one of motorsport’s Triple Crown in doing so.

He won the 2023 season opener in IndyCar and finished sixth in the championship this year, with a move to Andretti to come for him in 2024.

Brendon Hartley

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2018

Former Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley has gone on to resume one of endurance racing’s brightest careers after his departure from Formula 1.

Already a winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two-time World Endurance champion when he arrived in the top tier, Hartley returned to WEC with Toyota, where he has built on his already substantial success in the category.

Alongside other former F1 talents in Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, he won a second Le Mans 24 Hours in 2020, and did so again last year with Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa – going on to win a third WEC title come the end of 2022.

Another title would follow in 2023 with Toyota, though the all-conquering team were pipped to Le Mans glory by Ferrari in a superb duel back in June.

Sergey Sirotkin

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2018

Sergey Sirotkin spent only a single season in Formula 1, back in 2018 with Williams, but the now-27-year-old has taken an altogether different direction from driving.

He maintained a presence in the F1 paddock until 2020, where he was reserve driver with Renault, but he has since turned his attention to trying to grow motorsport in Russia.

Sirotkin became vice president and executive director of the Russian Automobile Federation last year, and he also began the S35 Academy, which is aimed at helping get young people into motorsport in his home country.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2018

After facing the unenviable task of being Fernando Alonso’s team-mate at McLaren, Vandoorne left Formula 1 at the end of 2018, but currently shares reserve duties at Aston Martin with reigning Formula 2 champion, Felipe Drugovich, as well as being available for McLaren as third driver when needed.

Having taken on endurance racing in his schedule since he left F1, the Belgian has also become a mainstay on the grid in Formula E, finishing second in his second season in the all-electric series – but his title success with Mercedes-EQ last year meant he was defending his title in 2023.

Romain Grosjean

Last Formula 1 entry: Bahrain, 2020

Romain Grosjean ended his F1 career with a lucky escape after a fiery crash in Bahrain saw him left with several nasty burns back in 2020, with the Frenchman thankfully able to climb out of his Haas on the day – with the remains of that chassis now on display at the F1 Exhibition in Madrid.

Since then, Grosjean has made the move Stateside and became an IndyCar driver in 2021, nicknamed ‘The Phoenix’ for his fiery escape from his final Grand Prix accident.

Like his Formula 1 career, where he took 10 podiums without a win, he has appeared in the top three five times without taking victory so far in the ultra-competitive American series, with two pole positions to his name to boot. He also took part in IMSA this year, in the GTD Pro class with the Iron Lynx team, driving a GT3-spec Lamborghini Huracan.

This followed with confirmation that he will be a Lamborghini Hypercar driver next season in the World Endurance Championship.

Daniil Kvyat

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2020

Daniil Kvyat’s topsy-turvy Formula 1 career ended at the end of 2020, with Yuki Tsunoda being promoted to replace him – after the Russian started out at Red Bull’s junior team, went up to the senior team, got sent back again, spent time off the grid and back on again, spending three separate spells at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri in total.

He remained a presence in the F1 paddock in 2021 as Alpine’s reserve driver, but he has since spread his wings in a racing sense and gone into multiple categories for this year, taking on NASCAR last season and the World Endurance Championship in LMP2 in 2023, as well as having taken part in the recent rookie test in Formula E.

He was also announced as a factory driver for Lamborghini ahead of their entry into the Hypercar class in WEC and IMSA next season.

Robert Kubica

Last Formula 1 entry: Netherlands, 2021

The fact Robert Kubica regained a full-time drive in Formula 1 after a horrific rallying accident proved to be almost fatal was a remarkable feat in itself, rejoining the grid with Williams in 2019.

For the most part, however, a rookie George Russell had the measure of him in his year back on the grid and he then moved to Alfa Romeo as a reserve for 2020, taking part in two races in 2021 while filling in for Kimi Raikkonen after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Kubica won the World Championship in the LMP2 class in WEC in 2023 and took second place in class at Le Mans, and will step up to Hypercars in 2023 running a Ferrari 499P chassis with AF Corse.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2021

Three full seasons with Alfa Romeo proved to be tricky for the Italian, whose potential in the junior categories was not fully realised in Formula 1 after not driving cars capable of regular points during his Formula 1 career.

He retained links to Ferrari throughout his time with Alfa as their reserve driver, and after leaving F1 he still holds onto a place as a Ferrari reserve to this day.

Giovinazzi raced in Formula E last season while taking part in two FP1 sessions for Haas, but in 2023 he raced for Ferrari in their all-new Hypercar entry in the World Endurance Championship, and was one of the three-driver team to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June.

Nikita Mazepin

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2021

It’s probably fair to say that the circumstances behind Nikita Mazepin’s entry and exit from Formula 1 were both controversial, given the #WeSayNoToMazepin campaign on social media which surfaced after he was filmed appearing to grope a woman, for which he apologised, but there was already a backlash against him before he had even made his debut.

Coupled with his lack of pace next to Mick Schumacher on track, and his propensity to go off or get in the way of others that prompted the unfortunate nickname ‘Mazespin’, he was not the most popular figure the sport had seen during his season at Haas.

And when Russia invaded Ukraine on the eve of the 2022 season, he and father Dmitry were included on the EU sanctions list against the country, and Mazepin was dismissed by Haas and replaced by Kevin Magnussen.

Since then, Mazepin has been pleading his case to have sanctions dropped against him so he can try and win a place back on the grid for 2024, while competing in LMP2 in the Asian Le Mans Series.

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Kimi Raikkonen

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2021

While Kimi Raikkonen has now been overtaken by Fernando Alonso for the highest number of race starts in the history of Formula 1, the Iceman’s status among the greats is well assured.

Since he retired at the end of 2021, Raikkonen has dabbled with NASCAR – taking part in a race at Watkins Glen in 2022 and joining Jenson Button on the grid at COTA in March, finishing P29.

He is also seeing his children begin sporting careers of their own, posting on Instagram on Monday that he had a “busy weekend” with “two podiums” to celebrate respectively. His wife, Minttu, also gave birth to their third child earlier in 2023.

His eldest child, Robin, is starting out in karting, so who knows if we could get Iceman Junior on the Formula 1 grid in the years to come?

Nicholas Latifi

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2022

Nicholas Latifi arrived at Williams in 2020 having finished as runner-up to Nyck de Vries in the Formula 2 standings the previous year, but he found it tough going against George Russell and Alex Albon in his three years in the sport.

In two years against Russell, he finished ahead on the road five times out of 44 when both crossed the finish line, and when in a backmarking car, your team-mate is your only real barometer for performance, and the Canadian often found himself behind Russell.

After a year with Albon alongside him in his third and final year at Williams, and three finishes inside the points overall in backmarking machinery, Latifi was replaced by Williams Academy driver Logan Sargeant for 2023.

Since then, he has kept a low profile in public – announcing in July 2023 he would be stepping away from racing to complete an MBA course at the London Business School.

 

Mick Schumacher

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2022

Mick Schumacher is another of the drivers on this list looking to make a return to the Formula 1 paddock in future, following his departure from Haas at the end of last year.

The end of his time with the American team split opinion, with some believing he had performed well enough to keep his seat, while others, including team boss Guenther Steiner, felt a more experienced driver was needed to push the team forward – with Nico Hulkenberg returning to the fray in 2023 and performing well throughout the year.

For his current role, Mercedes quickly snapped up Schumacher’s services to take on reserve duties for the 2023 season, acting as third driver for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell while undertaking simulator work at the team’s factory.

Schumacher is still searching for a way back onto the grid, but will combine Mercedes reserve duties in 2024 with a WEC drive with Alpine, after a year away from the track.

Sebastian Vettel

Last Formula 1 entry: Abu Dhabi, 2022

The retirement of four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel caught people somewhat off-guard last summer – chiefly because the former Red Bull and Ferrari driver announced it on a newly-created Instagram account, having long gone against the grain and stayed away from social media.

But his farewell in Abu Dhabi last season was a fond one, with drivers, paddock staff and members of the media, including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher, taking part in a run around the Yas Marina Circuit on the eve of his final race, with Vettel’s father Norbert cheering on from a truck playing dance music as people went around.

Fans, drivers and media alike were all united in giving Vettel a fond send-off into retirement, and while he has not fully ruled out a racing return in future, having taken part in the Race of Champions in January, much of his current work centres around sustainability and initiatives aimed at halting climate change.

Nyck de Vries

Last Formula 1 entry: Great Britain, 2023

Daniel Ricciardo had appeared on this list, but he is now back on the grid due to him having replaced Nyck de Vries after only 10 races in Formula 1.

To be cast aside after such a short time is widely considered to have been a ruthless move by Red Bull after the Dutchman struggled to match Yuki Tsunoda in the first part of the 2023 season at AlphaTauri, but a tyre test for Ricciardo at Silverstone following the British Grand Prix is said to have made up the team’s mind.

Prolific in every other series in which he has raced, De Vries was quickly snapped up for drives in 2024, and is set for a return to Formula E and the World Endurance Championship – gaining a seat with reigning World Champions, Toyota, in Hypercars for next season.