The Most Mismatched Teammates in F1 History

It is not uncommon for F1 outfits to purposefully hire a pair of drivers who differ in terms of raw ability. In some cases the team may have no choice, such as being forced to hire a pay driver to cover the costs of participation in the sport (pay drivers tend to be slower than regular F1 drivers). In other scenarios a team may decide to hire the services of a driver who is unlikely to challenge their number 1 driver so as to avoid unnecessary battles on track which can hamper both cars’ races. In this article we will list some of the greatest mismatches between teammates in Formula 1.

Emerson Fittipaldi and David Walker: 1972

File:Emerson Fittipaldi 1972 Austrian GP.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
User Pop1 on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

David Walker was thrust into the world of F1 in 1972 prematurely by modern standards, having only just been victorious in the British Formula 3 series the previous year.

Driving for Lotus F1, his teammate was none other than Emerson Fittipaldi. The Brazilian pilot was yet to win a World Championship but was nonetheless a top-class pilot. Fittipaldi would win the title in 1972 with 61 points, in what was a dominant display consisting of 5 wins and a place in the rostrum in every race he finished bar Canada.

Meanwhile, Walker was unable to muster a single point over the whole campaign! His best result was 9th at the Spanish Grand Prix which he didn’t even finish. However he was still classified despite running out of fuel and being lapped by Emerson 3 times! Unsurprisingly, Lotus became increasingly disillusioned by the Australian driver’s performances, and therefore sacked him with three races left to go.

Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti: 1993

File:Senna's McLaren MP4-8.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Byser, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prolific in the world of CART, Michael Andretti made the switch to F1 in 1993 off the back of winning the CART title two years prior in 1991. He was hired by McLaren boss Ron Dennis who no doubt expected bug things from the American.

Partnered with triple world champion Ayrton Senna, Andretti was shockingly out of his depth from the very beginning. Several aspects could have played a role in his lack of success in the sport.

First of all he was not used to the complexity of the driving dynamics of Formula 1 cars, all with their active suspension and other technological advancements. IndyCars were much simpler back then in that respect.

Furthermore, a new rule introduced for the 1993 F1 season limited the number of laps available for free practice to 23, which gave Andretti almost no time at all to learn each track (most of which he had never driven on before).

Another roadblock to his success in F1 was that he regularly commuted from the US to each race on the calendar. Apart from the physical strain of travelling long distances to each event, these journeys had the added hindrance of restricting communication between Michael and his team of engineers which meant he wasn’t able to adapt the car to his driving style as effectively as Senna.

Sure enough, Andretti scored a measly 7 points to Senna’s 73, more than a ten-fold deficit. His best result came in what was to be his final race in Formula 1 at Monza, where he finished in P3. After the Italian Grand Prix he chose to leave the team and focus on a career back at home. He was replaced by Mika Hakkinen for the final 3 races of the campaign.

Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries: 1986

File:Lotus 98T of Ayrton Senna, 1986.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Dima Moroz, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

That familiar yellow helmet is present once again as we go back 7 years to 1986, just the third year of F1 legend Ayrton Senna. As mentioned in a previous article, Senna didn’t want any competition against a teammate while at Lotus, demanding the team to sign a #2 driver through and through.

This came in the shape of Johnny Dumfries, as he was signed by the Hethel-based team instead of the more experienced and faster Derek Warwick. The Briton scored only 3 points over the calendar year, while his Brazilian teammate managed 4th in the Drivers’ Standings with what was easily the 4th or even 5th fastest car on the grid with 55 points.

Perhaps the greatest measure of driving ability can be seen on the streets of Monaco. Dumfries failed to qualify for the race in the 98T, almost 5 seconds adrift from Senna’s best time which put the latter on the second row of the grid.

While this must have been horribly embarrassing for Dumfries, better times would soon come for him away from Formula 1 when he won the 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9.

Michael Schumacher and 3 Teammates: 1994

File:Jos Verstappen - Benetton 194 at the 1994 British Grand Prix  (31697654304).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Martin Lee from London, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Michael Schumacher had 3 teammates over the course of the 1994 season with Benetton. They were Jos Verstappen, JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert. While Schumacher edged out his first of seven world titles by beating Damon Hill in a Williams by 1 point (92 vs 91), the other 3 Benetton pilots only got 11 points between them.

By far his best partner was Jos Verstappen, who managed 2 podiums which along with a 5th place finish in Portugal added 10 points to Benetton’s tally.

JJ Lehto was supposed to be the regular number 2 driver alongside Michael but the Finn disappointed in the B194, with a best result of 6th in Canada, which was the final points-scoring position back then. Finally, Johnny Herbert drove for the team for the last 2 races of the campaign but achieved the worst results of them all, with a double retirement.

Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais: 2008

File:Sebastian Vettel 2008 Canada.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Mark McArdle from Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bourdais’ inclusion in this list may be a mite unfair, as he was extremely unlucky at several key races during the 2008 season. However, with a ballistically fast teammate in the form of Sebastian Vettel, Sebastien was ultimately overshadowed. He scored 4 points to Vettel’s 35.

Several examples of bad luck for the Frenchman include running 4th in the first race of the season in Australia before an engine malfunction dropped him to 7th in the closing stages; being on course for a podium at Spa before rain started to pelt down which dropped the dry-shod driver to drop to 7th again; and at Monza where he qualified fourth but was forced to start from the pitlane after his gearbox refused to select first gear.

On the other hand, Vettel scored regular points finishes and even managed an unbelievable race win in Italy, a light-to-flag piece of dominance which showed the world that he was truly a champion in the making.

Ralf Schumacher and Alex Zanardi: 1999

File:Ralf Schumacher 1999 Canada.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Paul Lannuier from Sussex, NJ, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alessandro Zanardi joined F1 for a second time off the back of two consecutive titles in CART in ’97 and ’98. However his pace in the American series did not translate as expected in F1 as he failed to score a point for the Williams outfit.

Williams were on a downwards spiral since their championship triumph in 1997, but Zanardi’s teammate Ralf Schumacher managed to eke out the best from the FW21, scraping together 35 points with a trio of podiums on his way to 6th in the Drivers’ Standings.

Alex’s car failed very often compared to Ralf’s, as the former retired from 10 of the 16 events in 1999. When he did manage to complete the full complement of laps he was miles off the pace. His best result of the year was 7th in his home race at Monza.

He apparently struggled with the concept of grooved tyres, which he was far from used to after his transition from CART which used slicks. Williams and Zanardi agreed to terminate the contract early due to a lack of good performances, with the Italian driver returning to CART in 2001 before a life-threatening crash took his life in a whole new direction.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber: 2013

File:Renault Red Bull RB9 - Sebastian Vettel (8493300034).jpg - Wikimedia  Commons
Magic Aviation, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sebastian Vettel returns to this list, a sentiment of his heroic status in motorsport. He and his teammate Mark Webber were enduring a fifth year together at Red Bull, with Vettel appearing on top on the final standings every season.

Vettel absolutely demolished Webber in the Australian’s final season (2013), collecting almost double the amount of points at 297 and 199 points respectively. This discrepancy was largely attributable to a faintly believable run of 9 successive wins to the end of the calendar.

Meanwhile, Mark Webber couldn’t muster a single victory over the season, which was disappointing given he was in by far and away the best car in the paddock that year. The Aussie retired at the end of the 2013 season, and could be proud of the illustrious career that he had, with 9 wins and 42 podiums to his credit.

Fernando Alonso and 2 Teammates: 2009

File:Romain Grosjean 2009 Japan 3rd Free Practice 2.jpg
Morio, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

2009 was far from a good season for Renault, as they only managed 26 points from 17 races and fizzled out in 8th in the Constructors’ Championship. These were all courtesy of Fernando Alonso, as both of his teammates in the year, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Romain Grosjean, failed to break into the top 8 all year round.

Alonso managed a single podium at the Singapore round and regularly got into the final part of qualifying, a good marker of outright pace behind the wheel. In contrast, his teammates often failed to reach Q2.

Piquet Jr. was replaced part way through the campaign by Romain Grosjean in the hopes that he would achieve better results, but the Frenchman failed in that regard as well. Things went from bad to worse for Renault F1 as they were convicted of race-fixing later in the season in the infamous Crashgate scandal.

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