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Jack Aitken walks in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hamad I Mohammed - Pool/Getty Images)

Ranking F1 drivers who only ever started 1 Grand Prix

F1 is the pinnacle of motor racing that every driver dreams of making it to. It is, however, a heavily competitive sport with only the top 20 drivers selected to ascend to the coveted grid. Notably, even the best drivers do not find a debut easily given there are only ten teams in the sport.

Even driving in the sport with any car is thought to be a dream come true. While many drivers fail to make it to the series permanently, some of them get lucky enough to drive a piece of F1 machinery at least once. Usually, these are any F1 team's reserve/ test drivers but could also be outsiders.

Mick Schumacher and Antonio Giovinazzi will share Ferrari reserve duties in 2022 🤝

#F1 | @ScuderiaFerrari


While reserve drivers are not necessarily the face of the team, they sure help the outfits in very important ways. So, let's look at a few reserve drivers/outsiders who have only ever started one Grand Prix in F1.


#1 Jack Aitken made a respectable F1 debut at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Jack Aitken was officially announced as Williams' test and reserve driver in 2020. The driver fared well in F2's 2019 season and managed a P5 finish in the championship. George Russell, who was contracted to Mercedes, was brought in to replace Lewis Hamilton when the driver contracted COVID-19. This allowed Aitken to make his maiden and only F1 debut then.


Aitken was undoubtedly suitably prepared to fit in the Williams car and was familiar with the team environment. The driver qualified in P18 right below his team partner Nicholas Latifi (just a tenth of a second apart).

Later on, Aitken spun in the race, triggering a safety car. The driver, however, still managed to finish in a respectable P16. Latifi, on the other hand, had a DNF and couldn't beat Aitken.


#2 Andre Lotterer's prolific career couldn't land him a permanent F1 seat

Andre Lotterer is a very well-known name in the motorsports world. The German-Belgian racing driver has managed three Le Mans victories, a World Endurance Championship title, a Formula Nippon title, two Super GT titles, and a good CV in Formula E. The driver arguably never got a proper chance to make his F1 debut.

Kickoff to our "bye bye Gen2" series as we head towards the Gen3 car launch on 7 Nov.: An epic start into our #FormulaE programme w/@Andre_Lotterer finishing 2nd in our maiden race in 2019. Wow, did André & our #Porsche99XElectric look great?

#MakeItMatter #PorscheFormulaE

The Belgian had previously spent two years (2001-02) as an F1 test driver for Jaguar. His debut in the sport, though, did not arrive until 2014. During that season, Caterham found themselves out of funding mid-season. The team then accepted a peculiar offer from Bertrand Gachot's company HYPE Energy. They were ready to sponsor that year's Belgian Grand Prix, given native driver Lotterer drove the car.

The 40-year-old was then paired alongside Marcus Ericsson, who he out-qualified (P21) by a second. The driver, however, sadly retired after just one lap of the race (mechanical failure), despite giving the team a promising start.

#3 Marcus Winkelhock made the most shocking F1 debut

Marcus Winkelhock acted as Spyker's test and reserve driver back in 2007. After the team faced financial issues ahead of the European Grand Prix, they had to look for alternative sponsors. Under these circumstances, Winkelhock was promoted and was all set to drive during the season's European GP.


As soon as the GP started, torrential rain spoiled the party. Spyker, however, noticed this and pre-emptively called Winkelhock to the pits on the warmup lap. The rest of the field, however, could only run to the pits at the end of Lap 1 while Winkelhock was already on full wets and was leading the race.


Winkelhock's glory, however, was short-lived as the race was soon red-flagged. When it was restarted, the track was in much drier conditions, where Spyker simply lacked the pace as the driver failed to keep up. Then a mechanical failure on Lap 13 brought a complete end to the German's race.

#4 Stephane Sarrazin gave a promising start at the 1999 F1 Brazilian Grand Prix

Stephane Sarrazin is another known face in the racing world with a bedazzling CV to his name. A former two-time Le Mans winner, Sarrazin had competed in various competitions and series with several wins to his credit.

In 1999, he competed in F3000 and was contracted to a testing role with the Prost Grand Prix team. Later on, he was offered a chance to replace the injured Luca Badoer at Minardi ahead of the 1999 Brazilian GP, a chance he took.

Stéphane Sarrazin started his only GP, with the Minardi team, replacing the injured Luca Badoer. The Frenchman started 18th but crashed out on lap 31 after a front wing failure which sent him into a series of spins.
Brazilian GP, 11th April 1999. #F1

The driver did extremely well in qualifying despite limited preparations (P18). He outqualified teammate Marc Gene by almost 0.7s. The driver's race, however, was short-lived as it ended in a terrible crash owing to a mechanical failure. Sarrazin later returned to his testing role with Prost, never to make a comeback again.


#5 Marco Apicella had the shortest F1 debut

Marco Apicella was competing in the Japanese F3000 series when he received an offer from Eddie Jordan (Jordan team owner) to make his F1 debut at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. Notably, Apicella was a front-runner in F3000 with Dome that year and even finished P4 in the standings.

Marco Apicella's #F1 career was all too brief... ⏱

Eliminated after just 800m at Monza in '93 #F1StrangeButTrue

He was called upon to replace Ivan Capelli and Thierry Boutsen in the team after they failed to deliver any points post the summer break. The Italian then got to pair with Rubens Barrichello for his home race, where he qualified 23rd (with limited preparation) while Barrichello was in P19.

The driver, however, faced bad luck as he barely moved in meters when a crash from a Sauber (starting from the back of the grid) took both him and Barrichello out. This ended Apicella's career right there as he never returned to the sport.

So, these were the few drivers who only ever started one GP in Formula 1. While they never made it to the sport again, some of them achieved great heights in other series'.

Edited by
Anurag C
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