The Different Paths Taken by Drivers After their Formula One Careers

Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Kimi Raikkonen in NASCAR at Watkins Glen; Image credits - Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Formula One is a cut-throat sport. Drivers who haven't had the momentum on their end are usually shown the door and have to look for seats elsewhere in the sport. And in the event of being unable to secure a seat at another team for the upcoming season, they will have to turn to other Motorsports to further their careers.


However, all is not lost for these drivers. The world of Motorsport offers many more avenues for a driver to showcase their talents, and build their careers on. While there is also the case that some drivers may choose to hang up their boots in Formula One, they tend to move to other forms of motorsport to get a feel for the atmosphere and continue to fulfil their need for speed. This can help them achieve some special accolades too.


What are the options available for a driver outside of Formula One, then? We take a look at these options and some drivers who have headed towards these forms of motorsport.


Formula E

Formula E, the newest class of single-seater racing in the last decade, has seen many drivers from the world of Formula One enter this avenue. Some have joined this sport to rejuvenate their racing careers, others as a way to continue to fulfil their ambitions of racing and competing in the world of motorsport. The likes of Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastian Buemi, who have had middling Formula One careers, have achieved several accolades in Formula E. Vergne is a two-time Champion and the only driver to have won the title on multiple occasions. Buemi has the most number of wins in the sport (13 wins), a record he shares with another ex-F1 driver, Lucas di Grassi. Both drivers have won one title apiece. Grassi also became the first driver to score 1000 championship points in Formula E during the 2022 Formula E season. It is clear that these drivers, who hadn't been able to achieve much in the Formula One circuit, have achieved plenty of successes in Formula E.

Lucas di Grassi; Image credits - Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images

Apart from the trio, there are other drivers who haven't achieved much success in Formula One but have found Formula E as a calling to showcase their talents. Nelson Piquet Jr, who was the main focus of the "Crashgate" controversy in F1, was the inaugural Formula E champion. Stoffel Vandoorne, who had a torrid 2018 season for McLaren, is now the reigning Formula E champion. Felipe Massa drove for Rokit Venturi in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons of Formula E. Pascal Wehrlein, former Manor and Sauber driver in F1, currently drives for Porsche. Antonio Giovinazzi found a new home with Dragon Penske Autosport for the 2022 season. The likes of Bruno Senna, Karun Chandok, Jerome D'Ambrosio, and Nick Heidfeld have also found a seat in Formula E during the earlier seasons of the sport.


Of course, there are many more Formula One drivers who have made low-key appearances across the years, but if anything, the sport has proved that it is a second chance for them after Formula One to showcase their talents.


IndyCar

A popular single-seater racing championship in America, IndyCar has been a new home for many former Formula One drivers, and for some who couldn't make the cut to the pinnacle of motorsport. The most recent examples of drivers heading to IndyCar after leaving Formula One are Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson, who currently race with Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing, respectively. Grosjean has taken four podiums and one pole position driving for Dale Coyne Racing and Andretti Autosport over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, respectively. Ericsson has been in the sport for four seasons and won three races and seven podiums, all bar one coming for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alexander Rossi, who has participated in seven Grands Prix in Formula One, has achieved a considerable amount of success in IndyCar. He has taken eight wins, 28 podiums, and seven pole positions driving for Andretti Herta Autosport and Andretti Autosport over a span of seven seasons.

Romain Grosjean; Image credits - James Gilbert/Getty Images

Another famous F1 driver who has taken to IndyCar is the Colombian driver, Juan Pablo Montoya. He achieved plenty of success in a short span of time and announced his retirement halfway through the 2006 F1 season. While he won the Indianapolis 500 during a one-off appearance in 2000, he won four further races and took 13 podiums and three pole positions in a three-year stint in IndyCar. He narrowly missed out on a Championship in 2015, only losing out on countback to Scott Dixon while driving for Team Penske. Montoya has made stand-in appearances for Arrows McLaren SP in the last two seasons for the Indianapolis rounds.


The likes of Sebastian Bourdais, Rubens Barrichello, and Takuma Sato have taken part in the sport too with varying degrees of success. With the Indy 500 being a part of the triple crown of motorsport, many drivers have made one-off appearances to stand a chance of achieving the accolade. Fernando Alonso, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jacques Villeneuve have made stand-in appearances over the past decade to stand a chance of winning the triple crown of motorsport.


With IndyCar proving to be a credible alternative to Formula One, we could see a number of drivers making the switch to IndyCar in the future, should they not get a seat in Formula One.


World Endurance Championship (WEC)

The WEC is another popular destination for Formula One drivers. One notable example of drivers being successful in WEC is the Japanese driver, Kamui Kobayashi. After a low-key F1 career, he moved to the LMGTE Pro class in 2013 driving for AF Corse. He took a win and a podium in eight race starts, finishing seventh in the standings. After a return to Formula One with Caterham in 2014 and a Super Formula stint in 2015, Kobayashi returned to the series in 2016, this time in the LMPH-1 category for Toyota Gazoo Racing, and has never looked back since. What followed were 16 pole positions, 11 wins, and two Championships in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2021 and has been on the podium all the seasons except one, during his stint with Toyota.

Kamui Kobayashi; Image credits - James Moy Photography/Getty Images

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans too being a part of the triple crown of motorsport, many drivers have taken to WEC to stand a chance of achieving the accolade. Fernando Alonso is one of them and he raced for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the 2018 and 2019 runnings of the event, triumphing on both occasions. He helped Toyota win the Championship in 2018. This was after he had initially announced his retirement from Formula One. Another Japanese driver, Kazuki Nakajima, has taken part in the WEC for ten seasons for Toyota in the LMPH class, winning the title once in the 2018-19 season. He has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans thrice.


Among other drivers, Michele Alboreto too participated in Le Mans before and after his F1 career, winning in 1997. Mark Webber took part in the series from 2014-16 after he retired from Formula One. With a number of seats available in the series, it presents a chance for many drivers to showcase their talents and attempt to win at the famous Le Mans. Brendon Hartley has taken part in the WEC before his short stint in Formula One and currently drives for Toyota in the Hypercar class with his team leading the standings in the ongoing season.


NASCAR

The famous American stock-car racing series has seen a few drivers take part after their F1 careers. Most notably, Montoya took part in the series for many seasons from 2007 to 2016. He drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity series from the last round in 2006 to 2008. He won one race at Sonoma in 2007 and took two further podiums in this stint. From 2009, he drove for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing taking two wins and several podiums in a five-year stint.

Montoya in NASCAR in 2013; Image credits - Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images

Jacques Villeneuve made one-off appearances at NASCAR for Team Hezeberg, with his first appearance at Talladega in 2007 and his latest race at the 2022 Daytona 500. He drove five races over a span of four seasons.


Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat have taken part in NASCAR this season. Raikkonen made one-off appearances in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series in 2011 during his sabbatical from Formula One. Kvyat has made two appearances for Team Hezeberg at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, whereas Raikkonen made an appearance at Watkins Glen for Trackhouse Racing Team. Although NASCAR is a viable alternative for F1 drivers, it is still a less explored territory compared to the above-mentioned series.


International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)

IMSA, the American endurance racing series, has had a few drivers from Formula One take part for a few stints. Most recently, the likes of Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson took part in the series. Magnussen drove for Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 after he left Formula One. He won at Detroit and achieved podium finishes at Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, Road America, and at the penultimate round in Long Beach. He finished a respectable seventh in the standings. Magnussen was slated to compete for Cadillac Racing in 2022 and finished sixth in the season opener at the 24 Hours of Daytona, before making a shock return to Formula One. Ericsson made a sole appearance for Cadillac Racing at Daytona alongside Magnussen.


Several former F1 drivers currently drive in IMSA such as Kamui Kobayashi, Felipe Nasr, Stoffel Vandoorne, Giedo Van Der Garde, Alexander Rossi, and Montoya himself, who take part in the 2022 series. IMSA remains another potential option for the lesser-known F1 drivers looking for a seat elsewhere.


Other Options

There are other lesser-known options too in the world of motorsport for drivers to take part in: The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) is one option. It is a German racing series for touring cars and has seen former F1 drivers Mika Hakkinen and Robert Kubica take part. Hakkinen competed in three seasons for HWA Team, driving an AMG Mercedes C-Klasse from 2005 to 2007, before announcing his retirement from motorsport. He took three race wins during his stint, one in 2005 and two in 2007. Kubica competed in the sport in 2020 after his one-season stint for Williams in Formula One in 2019. He drove for BMW Team ART in a BMW M4 Turbo DTM, taking one podium over the course of the season at Zolder.


The likes of Kubica and Raikkonen have also taken part in the famous World Rally Championship (WRC). Raikkonen made his rally debut at his home event in Finland in 2009 driving an Abarth Grande Punto S2000. He then proceeded to drive for the Citroen Junior Team and ICE 1 Racing in 2010 and 2011, respectively, taking part in 21 rallies over the two seasons scoring a combined total of 59 points.

Kubica's stint in rallying was a very famous one. He had a near-fatal collision while rallying before the 2011 F1 season started. He returned to rallying in 2012 and won the 2013 WRC-2 season driving a Citroen DS3 RSC. He competed in the WRC for three seasons without achieving further success before contemplating a return to F1.

Kimi Raikkonen taking part in the WRC; Image credits - Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images

Few drivers have taken up roles within the sport itself after announcing their retirement. Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost set up their own teams in the late 90s, with Johnny Herbert winning the action-packed European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1999 for the Stewart Grand Prix team before it was sold to Jaguar. After retiring from the sport at the end of 2006, Michael Schumacher acted as Ferrari's advisor from 2007 to 2009 and helped in their development programme during this time. He would eventually return to the sport with Mercedes for another three seasons from 2010.


These are some of the major avenues taken by drivers after retiring from Formula One or not finding a seat on the Formula One grid for next season. With more series emerging, drivers will have more options at their disposal should they not secure a seat in the world's most prestigious motorsport.