Drivers who returned after F1 exit: Hulkenberg and Ricciardo's chances

Drivers who returned after F1 exit: Hulkenberg and Ricciardo's chances

20-12-2022 11:20

Nico Hulkenberg returns to Formula 1 after a long absence, while Daniel Ricciardo has to say goodbye. The question is how well Hulkenberg can still perform after a long break, while Ricciardo will try to return to the grid after 2023. How likely is it that we will see the Australian back in the sport in the future?

Hulkenberg is certainly not the first driver to return to Formula 1 after a long break. There have been many different drivers over the years who did not have enough of the sport after their F1 retirement after all. GPblog compiles a list of drivers who left F1 but still returned. How good were their results and how likely is it that we will also see Ricciardo back in the sport?

Michael Schumacher

As the most successful driver in F1 of all time, the return of Michael Schumacher is a well-known example. After his dominant years at Ferrari, the German bid farewell to the sport after 2006. After a four-year absence, Schumacher returned to Formula 1 with Mercedes in 2010. However, conditions were very different from Ferrari, because as a new team, Mercedes could not yet compete for victories. Schumacher achieved only one podium finish after his return with a third place at Valencia 2012. Teammate Nico Rosberg managed to beat the F1 legend every season. Although fans were delighted by the return of the seven-time world champion, Schumacher failed to add any more exciting results to his CV.

Alain Prost

In his first stint in F1, from 1980 to 1991, Alain Prost managed to win three world titles. In 1992, however, the Frenchman did not have a seat in the sport as he was sacked for publicly criticising his Ferrari. After a year out of the sport, Prost was able to return with Williams in 1993. The F1 legend showed after a year's absence that he still had it in him and he won his fourth world title (helped by Williams' strong car). It was also immediately his last season in Formula 1.

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica never expected to return to Formula 1 after his crash during a rally in Italy in early 2011, but in 2019 Williams gave him the chance to participate in the sport for another year. During his first stint in F1 between 2006 and 2010, Kubica was tipped as a future star, but his serious injury unfortunately put an end to that. His results with Williams were disappointing and the Polish driver was comfortably beaten by teammate George Russell. Still, his return to F1 is one of the best stories, as he proved otherwise after his life-changing injury.

Kimi Raikkonen

Although Kimi Raikkonen failed to win a second world title after his return to Formula 1, the Finn did prove that he was still an incredibly consistent driver. As Sebastian Vettel 's teammate at Ferrari, Raikkonen was the German's perfect teammate in the title battle against Lewis Hamilton. He managed to win three more races after his return and he finished on the podium no fewer than 41 times. His break caused his enthusiasm for F1 to be renewed. The Finn only resigned with his official retirement after 10 seasons.

Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell's return proved to be short-lived. It took him a while to win his first world title. Like Nico Rosberg, Mansell announced his retirement after his dominant year only to race in IndyCar in 1993. In 1994 and 1995, he returned for just six races with Williams and McLaren. With a fourth place and victory, he proved he could still keep pace, but his final year at McLaren was so disappointing that he retired for good. The car was not fast enough for the Briton, but he still showed what he had to offer.

Niki Lauda

The story of Niki Lauda's return has also been successful. With two world titles in his pocket, the Austrian left the sport because he no longer felt the need to drive around in circles. After a two-year absence, Lauda returned in 1982 and immediately managed to win two Grands Prix. In 1984, he managed to win his third world title with McLaren. The following year was disappointing for Lauda due to numerous technical problems and a tenth place in the championship. The F1 legend then retired for good.

Recent examples

Fernando Alonso returned to Formula 1 not once, but twice. His debut year with Minardi in 2001 was a disappointing one, but the Spaniard returned after a two-year absence with a seat at Renault. In 2005 and 2006, Alonso won his two world titles with the team, but they would also be his last. He ended his second stint with four disappointing seasons at McLaren. Alonso then ventured into other racing classes such as the Indy 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and WEC. After two years out of the sport, Alonso returned with Alpine in 2021. However, as with McLaren, the Spaniard had two disappointing seasons with many reliability problems. At the age of 41, however, Alonso is showing that he is more than fit for F1. Next year, he will make the move to Aston Martin, with whom he will pursue his third world title.

Kevin Magnussen, like Alonso, has returned to F1 twice. He made his debut in 2014 alongside Jenson Button, but he did not deliver the desired results and was replaced by Alonso. After a season out of the sport, Magnussen returned in 2016 with Renault. Between 2017 and 2020, at drove for Haas, but the Dane, along with Romain Grosjean, had to make way for young drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

His time in Formula 1 seemed to be over, but at the start of the 2022 season, Magnussen was suddenly recalled by Haas as a replacement for Mazepin, who was sacked due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Although it was difficult for Magnusssen to score points in Haas' mediocre car, he did manage to take pole position in Brazil. The opening race in Bahrain was also a great success with a fifth place.

Hulkenberg and Ricciardo?

So there are plenty of successful stories about drivers who returned to F1 and still managed to achieve good results. Whether Hulkenberg can live up to this at Haas is partly down to the car. In recent years, the team has not delivered the best results. However, the German is fortunate that he did get to drive F1 cars in his three-year absence to replace drivers with corona. Hulkenberg, for instance, has been allowed to drive the new cars twice at a Grand Prix in 2022. Past experience shows that an absence from F1 does not necessarily mean that a driver's talent disappears, so it is now up to Hulkenberg to show that he is still good enough for the king class of motorsport.

For Ricciardo, the question is whether he can find a seat with an F1 team after 2023. As Red Bull Racing's third driver, the Australian is at least ready if something happens in the relationship between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, but the Mexican driver still has a contract until 2024 (although of course that does not necessarily mean certainty). Ricciardo could also try his hand at other F1 teams that have free seats for 2024. In any case, he can draw a lot of inspiration from the other stories of returning drivers.

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