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Which ex-F1 driver deserves another chance?

With the likes of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg having made a comeback to F1 over the past year, the potential for former drivers to get back on the grid currently seems strong. Could another name from the past make a return in the near future?

F1 might have welcomed increasingly young drivers in the 2010s, but the trend in recent times seems to have veered towards experience over youth. The likes of Lando Norris and Lance Stroll made their debuts at ages 19 and 18 respectively, while Max Verstappen remains the youngest driver to have started a race after lining up as a 17-year-old rookie back in 2015. More recently, though, 'veteran' drivers have found their way back onto the grid, seemingly being given the nod over younger names. Kevin Magnussen made a surprise comeback at the start of 2022 to replace Nikita Mazepin at Haas, one year after being dropped by the American squad. His teammate in 2023 will be Nico Hulkenberg, who steps in to Mick Schumacher's seat three years on from his last full-time season in Formula 1. Elsewhere, Nyck de Vries joins AlphaTauri. Having won the Formula 2 championship back in 2019, the Dutchman was initially unable to secure an F1 opportunity and instead joined the all-electric Formula E series. An impressive substitute performance in an unwell Alex Albon's Williams at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix appeared to put de Vries back in the mix for a seat on the grid. All of this will surely come as a welcome development to drivers who have previously found themselves sidelined from the Formula 1 field. So who, if any, could potentially stage a comeback of their own in the near future?

Stoffel Vandoorne

Of all the former F1 drivers assessing their chances of a return to the sport, Stoffel Vandoorne seems like one with reasonably good odds on paper. Like de Vries, Vandoorne has experienced success in Formula E with the Mercedes-EQ team; the Belgian followed in his teammate's footsteps by winning the championship in 2021/2022, just as de Vries had done in the previous campaign. Both also held roles as reserve drivers for the Mercedes F1 team in recent years. Unlike de Vries, Vandoorne has prior experience of Formula 1, having raced for McLaren in 2017 and 2018. It was a difficult period for the team, and the then-rookie Vandoorne was outperformed by teammate Fernando Alonso in a largely uncompetitive car, meaning that opportunities to shine were few and far between. However, his Formula E title triumph – alongside a new role as a test and reserve driver at Aston Martin in 2023 – have brought attention to the 30-year-old's prospects of an F1 comeback. While he has played down these hopes , de Vries' move to Formula 1 from Formula E will surely have bolstered Vandoorne's chances of a return to the grid, though perhaps this will depend on the success of de Vries' season...

Antonio Giovinazzi

Vandoorne's first F1 appearance came when he filled in for Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, and another driver to get their debut in this way was Antonio Giovinazzi, who sat in for an unwell Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian Grand Prix in 2017. The Italian joined Alfa Romeo for the 2019 campaign and remained as part of an unchanged line-up alongside Kimi Raikkonen until the end of 2021. Throughout this time, Giovinazzi struggled to match his more experienced teammate, and ultimately found himself without a seat for the 2022 campaign. Like Vandoorne and other ousted Formula 1 names, Giovinazzi has since competed in Formula E but made some Free Practice 1 appearances with the Haas F1 team in the latter half of the season. Guenther Steiner went on to reveal that the 28-year-old had been a contender for Schumacher's seat at Haas in 2023 before ultimately losing out to Hulkenberg. The fact that Giovinazzi crashed during his FP1 run at the United States Grand Prix perhaps did not help his chances of a comeback.

Marcus Ericsson

Many Formula 1 fans may have forgotten about Marcus Ericsson following his exit from the Sauber team at the end of the 2018 season, having been replaced by none other than Giovinazzi for 2019. The Swedish driver had raced for the squad from 2015 and scored a total of 18 points in his four years on the grid. After leaving the sport, Ericsson headed to America to compete in the IndyCar Series and made his way back into the headlines in the summer of 2022 after winning the iconic Indianapolis 500. While there are currently no signs of an F1 return for Ericsson, the 32-year-old's success in the States certainly brought his name back into the picture.

Mick Schumacher

The likes of Hulkenberg highlight a trend for drivers making a comeback after an extended period away from F1, but some will be hoping to return to the grid a little sooner. Mick Schumacher – the man to be replaced by Hulkenberg – was amongst those to take part in their last Formula 1 race for the time being at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Since losing his spot on the grid, the German has spoken of his hopes of returning, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has publicly voiced his support for the 23-year-old , whose father Michael completed his final years in the sport with the Silver Arrows. Schumacher's two seasons at Haas were not always smooth but, with speculation over a possible reserve driver role for 2023, the youngster may well manage to put himself in contention for a comeback in the future.

Daniel Ricciardo

Perhaps the most high-profile name to be left without a seat on the grid in 2023 was Daniel Ricciardo, whose difficult spell at McLaren came to a premature end following a mutual agreement with the team to terminate his multi-year contract early. The Australian opted against any possible opportunities with a squad lower down the field and instead chose to return to Red Bull as a reserve driver for the season ahead. Ricciardo has openly admitted to experiencing a sense of "burnout" during a challenging 2022, but hopes to find an opportunity to return to a race seat in 2024. It could be argued that his recent struggles have not put the 33-year-old in the best position for a comeback, though McLaren's Zak Brown has suggested that Ricciardo can "rebuild" if given an opportunity to perform . With Hulkenberg and de Vries both having impressed as substitutes in recent times, this possibility will surely give Ricciardo hope of securing a return to the grid in the future.

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