Hello there, welcome to Post-F1 Paths from Sidepodcast, a mini series of seven short shows looking at what options are available to drivers who hang up their F1 helmets and look for a career outside of the paddock. This is the third episode and today we’re talking about drivers who still need that thrill of the race, and so look to other motorsport series’.
Formula One is considered the pinnacle of motorsport, just about, and particularly in recent years, drivers have to be at the peak of physical fitness to get the best out of the car. They restrict their diets, they train every day, they do everything they can to control their bodies so as to save time on track. It’s no surprise that a driver retiring from F1 may still decide they want to race, but just look for the thrill in a series where they can relax, just a little. Maybe have a cake, on occasion, you know?
The two other series with the highest profile that attract drivers are the IndyCar series and the World Endurance championship. As we’ve seen with Fernando Alonso in 2017, the dream of completing the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans hat trick continues to live large in driver’s minds, and so those two series must seem very attractive for a recently retired F1 star.
IndyCar has similarities to F1, the cars look somewhat familiar and the road courses have right and left turns just as all F1 circuits do. The ovals are something different though, top speeds are higher, cornering speeds are crazy, and it all seems somewhat terrifying to me but to a driver no doubt looks an incredible challenge. Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato are recent IndyCar converts with vastly different degrees of success. Indy 500 winners include Jacques Villeneuve, Emerson Fittipaldi and Graham Hill.
Over in the endurance series, recent converts include Mark Webber and Anthony Davidson, who adjusted to life in the closed cockpits very well. Whilst the cars are very different in the WEC, I imagine it’s the format of the races that is more of an adjustment for fresh F1 faces. Far longer races than the two hour limit of a grand prix, and sharing the car with other drivers – jumping in and out midrace, perhaps even catnapping to reserve energy for that final dash to the end. It’s a different discipline and one that takes some getting used to, unless you’re Nico Hülkenberg, of course. The current Renault driver took time out of his F1 season last year (not missing any races, though) to take part in and WIN the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Porsche.
But if you’re not interested in taking that triple crown of motorsport, there are plenty of other options out there for you. Kimi Räikkönen took an F1 sabbatical that saw him turn his hand to rallying – another discipline that shares few similarities with Formula One. Closed cockpits, rally cars, a passenger, single time trials rather than wheel to wheel combat, it’s definitely something different. Kimi seemed to enjoy it at first, but soon came back to F1. Robert Kubica also participated in rallying alongside his F1 career before the accident that postponed his open wheel ambitions.
We’ve mentioned Montoya already in regards to IndyCar but the Colombian racer also had a respectable career in NASCAR: winning races, securing pole positions and generally making a good showing of things. And Paul di Resta came from the German racing series DTM before he joined F1. Many wondered whether he could make the adjustment, as it’s a different path to the sport than the normal karting to feeder series to F1 paddock journey. He adapted well, if not spectacularly, but I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when he returned to the DTM series, combining it with simulator duties for the Mercedes squad.
As is often said, you can’t teach someone how to be fast, there’s a talent that has to be there to be successful. But if the evidence we’ve looked at shows us anything, it’s that you can learn how to adapt your skills to different environments, with varying degrees of success. Just because a driver’s career in F1 may have come to an end, it doesn’t mean they have to hang up their helmet for good.
That’s all for this episode of Post-F1 Paths, thank you for listening. Do let me know what you think about drivers participating in other racing disciplines, just head to sidepodcast.com/contact to share your thoughts. And do join me again tomorrow when we’ll look at something else a driver can do outside of the car.
All content in the series Post-F1 Paths
Filed under Mini Series
References Emerson Fittipaldi, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen, Mark Webber, Nico Hülkenberg
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