Then and Now – Team Debuts

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With Haas making their Formula 1 debut this weekend, I though it may be good to remind ourselves of what good looks like in terms of debut performances.  The recent (2010) F1 entrants (USF1, HRT, Lotus and Virgin) did not fair very well.  One never even got as far as producing a car, one failed to be ready for the first race, and the only team who scored points (in 2014) are still on the grid as Manor.  So we need to look at some more successful teams to see what sort of debut they made.  Of the nine teams still in F1 six have changed identities as different owners have bought the teams.  This article looks at the debut races of the original entry that eventually became the team that we see on the grid today.

Ferrari as the longest standing team in the sport, actually predate the F1 world championship.  So although they missed the opening race of the 1950 season at Silverstone, their first championship event at Monaco in 1950 was certainly not their first race at this level.  It is no surprise therefore that of the four cars they entered, three qualified, two finished (in second and fourth places).

Next oldest are McLaren, who still exist under their original name despite merging with Ron Dennis’ Project Four organisation well over three decades ago.  In their opening season in 1966, founder Bruce McLaren entered a single car for himself in six of the nine races.  In the opening event he qualified tenth, but an oil leak meant he failed to finish.  He failed to start the next race he entered, but did qualify for the fourth race of the year in thirteenth place and finished sixth, for the final point on offer at that time.

The team now running as Mercedes can trace its roots back through Brawn, Honda and BAR to the Tyrrell team, founded by Ken Tyrrell.  He first entered as a constructor in 1970 (although he had used customer Matra and March chassis prior to this).  In 1970 the team entered three races with its own chassis, qualifying on pole for the first of these (and second for the other two).  The car retired from all the races.  1971 was different, with Jackie Stewart on pole for the first race and finishing second on his way to his second driver’s championship.

Williams are next up, and here we are looking at the current team which can trace its roots back to 1977, not the earlier Frank Williams Racing Cars, which became Wolf in that year.  Williams entered just a single race in 1977, and driver Loris Kessel failed to qualify in Monza.  The following year they had changed drivers, and Alan Jones did rather better, qualifying fourteenth for the opening race in Argentina, but retiring in the race with a fuel system problem.  He finished the next race though (in eleventh place) and scored points for fourth place in the third race of the year.

The Enstone Team are the next oldest, starting as Toleman in 1982, before becoming Benetton, Renault, Lotus and now back to Renault again.  The team entered two cars for fourteen of the sixteen events on the calendar.  Derek Warwick qualified fourteenth for the first race of the year, but failed to finish.  It took until the fourth race of the year before either driver would start a race again, although both qualified only Teo Fabi made the start, but again wasn’t classified at the end.  Although the drivers qualified for more races towards the end of the season, the only finishes were for Warwick in France and Germany (fifteenth and tenth respectively).

Toro Rosso were once the paddocks favourite backmarker team (Minardi), who started in 1985.   They entered a solitary car for Pierluigi Martini in all sixteen races.  He qualified for fifteen of the events (although only twice breaking into the top twenty), but finished only two events.  These were a twelfth in Spa and an eighth in Adelaide at the end of the year.

Jordan entered F1 in 1991 and has since raced under Midland and Spyker names before becoming Force India.  In 1991, the striking green cars are best remembered for Michael Schumacher’s stunning debut in Spa, qualifying seventh (even if he burnt the clutch out and didn’t complete a lap).  With two cars entered for all sixteen races, the team started every race it entered except for the first event of the year where Andrea de Cesaris failed to pre-qualify.  Bertrand Gachot did however manage to start in fourteenth place, even if he didn’t finish.    Race four was the first time the car got to the finish, with Gachot coming home seventh, and a double points finish the next time out with de Cesaris in fourth and Gachot in fifth.

Sauber moved up from Sportscars in 1993, and although they were a BMW works team for a while, Peter Sauber regained control when the manufacturer pulled out a few years ago.  Initially with Mercedes engines, this team was expected to turn silver as soon as it won at the top level, and then repeat the domination that had made in so successful at Le Mans.  The season started well, with both cars in the top ten in qualifying for the first half dozen events of the year, and a fifth place first time out for JJ Lehto.  However, although the sped was there, the reliability was not, and by the time they were finishing races they were qualifying outside of the top ten.

That leaves Red Bull, who bought their team from Jaguar, and they started as Stewart in 1997. By this stage, there was no danger of not qualifying (as the entry was small enough that everyone would start, provided they were within 107% of the pole time). The team qualified for the first race in eleventh (Rubens Barrichello) and nineteenth (Jan Magnussen), but neither finished.  This pattern continued until the fifth race of the year (Monaco) where Barrichello started tenth and Magnussen in nineteenth; however the team score its first points with its first finish, Barrichello in second and Magnussen in seventh.

So it is possible for Haas to remain in F1 even if they do not have a points scoring finish in theor first season.  Remember with the reliability of the cars now so much better than it was when each of the other teams started, it is much harder to score points through attrition.  However, there is every sign that the team are closer to the mid field than any of the last batch of new entrants ever got, so there is every chance through the year that they could get there.  Just don’t expect too many miracles this weekend.

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