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Formula 1

The worst F1 driver moves of all time from Alonso to Ascari

What happens when an F1 driver makes a bad career move? RacingNews365 takes a look at some of the worst.

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Sometimes, a driver move in Formula 1 pays off handsomely.

Probably the best example is Lewis Hamilton ditching McLaren for Mercedes for 2013, which drew much criticism at the time.

Six World Championships later, it's safe to say Hamilton got it right, but that's not always the case, as RacingNews365 explores.

Daniel Ricciardo: Red Bull to Renault, 2019

The most recent worst move made by a driver came ahead of the 2019 season, when Daniel Ricciardo traded Red Bull for Renault.

There were a few million reasons why the Australian left Milton Keynes for Enstone, but he felt the trend within the team was moving away from him to Max Verstappen, and was unconvinced by the Honda deal Red Bull had agreed for 2019.

Boss Christian Horner made the point that Ricciardo was moving to a team powered by the engine that had let Red Bull down, but the lure of building a project up proved too much for Ricciardo.

Fourth in Italy was his best result in 2019, before claiming a couple of podiums in 2020, with a set-up breakthrough at Silverstone unleashing the pace of the car.

Unfortunately, Ricciardo had already decided before the COVID-19 delayed 2020 season even started to jump the good ship Enstone for McLaren...

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Fernando Alonso: Ferrari to McLaren, 2015

Fernando Alonso has a knack of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. After all, the most amazing stat about the two-time World Champion's long career is that if he had scored just 11 more points, he'd be a five-time one.

Two more points in 2007, five more in 2010 and four more in 2012 would have seen Kimi Raikkonen not win a title and Sebastian Vettel be relegated to a two-time champion, but alas, Alonso remains as just a two-timer.

After Ferrari bungled the first year of the turbo hybrid era, Alonso's patience finally ran out, and the boyhood Ayrton Senna fan could not resist the lure of driving for a reunited McLaren-Honda in 2015.

In late 2014, Ron Dennis had gone around saying the Honda power unit was "mind-blowing." To an extent, he was right...

Alonso effectively wasted the peak years of his career as McLaren believed all its troubles were caused by Honda - not realising its own chassis defects. These were brutally exposed in 2018 when a Renault unit was crowbarred in the back - and the team hit rock-bottom.

Alonso left for 2019 - and after attacks on the WEC, the Indy 500 and the Dakar Rally, he came back for 2021 with Alpine.

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Jacques Villeneuve: Williams > BAR (1999)

All of Jacques Villeneuve's F1 success came in his first two years at Williams.

After winning the title in 1997, he would never again take a pole position or race win, but for 1999, elected to move to the new BAR team that had basically been created for him.

There was a publication declaration of winning its first race, as Villeneuve and team-mate Ricardo Zonta (he of Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher Spa 2000 fame) both promptly retired.

Which is what Villeneuve did for the first 11 races, and scored the grand total of Nil Poi.

He did take fourth in the first race of 2000, but aside from a couple of podiums in 2001, Villeneuve's career went downhill.

As for BAR, that became Honda for 2006, Brawn for 2009 and Mercedes in 2010...

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Nigel Mansell: Williams to McLaren, 1995

Nigel Mansell is the only Grand Prix driver in history to have raced for Lotus, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren.

While his two races in 1995 for McLaren earn him that distinction, everything else about the move was a disaster.

Firstly, Nigel Mansell and Ron Dennis working in the same team was never going to work given their forceful personalities and secondly, the stocky Mansell could not fit in the car.

He was forced to sit out the opening rounds while a bigger monocoque was built for him - returning at Imola.

Finishing 10th, he then retired next time out in Spain, and called it a day.

A colossal waste of everyone's time, Mansell only took up the McLaren offer after being overlooked for the Williams seat for 1995 that went to David Coulthard.

The two had shared duties after the loss of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994, with Mansell winning the final race that year in Australia, but Sir Frank Williams opted for Coulthard, once again slighting the '92 World Champion in a contract negotiation.

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Jean Alesi: Tyrrell to Ferrari, 1991

Jean Alesi's decision to back out of a move to Williams for 1991 and instead sign for Ferrari is probably the biggest mistake a driver has ever made when moving team.

Ferrari was about to enter a terrible period that would only end with Gerhard Berger's win in the 1994 German Grand Prix while Williams was to embark on its great run of success between '92 and '97 where Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Villeneuve would take the Drivers' title and the team win the Constructors' every year bar '95.

As it was, Alesi would only win one Grand Prix, on his 31st birthday at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix - driving the #27 Ferrari at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve of all places.

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Emerson Fittipaldi: McLaren > Fittipaldi (1976)

Emerson Fittipaldi became the first McLaren World Champion in 1974, and finished runner-up in 1975 to Niki Lauda but dropped a bombshell for 1976.

He was leaving for brother Wilson's Copersucar outfit, which is a bit like Max Verstappen leaving Red Bull for Jos Verstappen Racing nowadays.

He picked up a second place at the 1978 Brazilian Grand Prix, but results were scarce and his F1 career faded out, but Fittipaldi would go on to CART success - winning the title in 1989 and also the Indy 500 in both 1989 and 1993 - infamously drinking orange juice instead of milk in victory lane in '93.

As a side-effect of moving from McLaren, it opened up a space for James Hunt to replace Fittipaldi, setting up the famous 1976 title fight with Lauda.

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Alberto Ascari - 1954

Perhaps a less well-known driver move came after the 1953 season with two-time World Champion Alberto Ascari.

Running into a financial dispute with Enzo Ferrari, Ascari left for Lancia with its unique side fuel-tanks and lower engine.

The D50 however was not ready until the final race of the season, with Ascari keeping race fit in a Ferrari of all things!

Come 1955, he retired from the first two races of the year, famously becoming the first driver to ever crash in the Monaco harbour.

Four days later, during a test at Monza, he crashed a sportscar at the fast left-hander at the back of the circuit which is now the Ascari chicane and was killed.

Alberto's father Antonio was also killed in a racing car, at the 1925 French Grand Prix, four days after surviving a crash.

The only other driver to crash into the Monaco harbour was Paul Hawkins in 1965. He too was killed in a racing car, in 1969, 14 years to the day since Alberto was killed at Monza.

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