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5 Times F1 Drivers Swapped Seats With Each Other

Schumacher pulled some excellent wins out of the bag despite his poor Ferrari in 1996.
Schumacher pulled some excellent wins out of the bag despite his poor Ferrari in 1996.
George Howson

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sauber's Charles Leclerc are swapping their seats for 2019 in a move that has shaken up the Formula 1 grid. With Pierre Gasly also joining a current top team (Red Bull) there will likely be some new faces gracing the F1 podium next year.

Seat swaps are nothing new to the sport, though, as up and coming drivers replace the experienced veterans. There's too many to list, but here are five of the most notable driver swaps in recent times.

#1 Michael Schumacher and Berger / Alesi, 1996

Michael Schumacher's records may be under threat from Lewis Hamilton these days, but his sensational statistics were largely forged during his time at Ferrari. After becoming the driver's world champion for the second season in a row at Benetton in 1995, Maranello came calling, and Schumacher answered. He joined the Scuderia for 1996, with the team in disarray, not winning any championship since 1982.

Ferrari's drivers in '95, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger both went the other way to Benetton for '96. To their credit, Benetton had a great season that year, Alesi and Berger scoring 10 podiums between them, but the Enstone outfit wouldn't enjoy any major success until they were re-branded as Renault and a certain Fernando Alonso came along. Schumacher, though, re-wrote every record in the book with Ferrari, winning five of his seven titles at the team before retiring (for the first time) at the end of 2006.

#2 Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello, 2000

Rubens Barrichello scored his first win in F1 in 2000
Rubens Barrichello scored his first win in F1 in 2000

On the surface, this may not seem like a driver swap, but if you dig a little deeper, you'll find out the truth. Eddie Irvine challenged for the 1999 driver's world championship after Michael Schumacher broke his leg and missed most of the season post-Silverstone, but that didn't prevent him from being sacked by Ferrari.

In came Rubens Barrichello, a young driver who had been putting in some great performances for Jordan and then Stewart racing, but hadn't had the car to win a race yet. Once he had the machinery, he delivered, becoming the first Brazilian to win a Grand Prix since the death of Ayrton Senna, after starting all the way down in 18th in Germany. Barrichello would remain at the team until 2005, serving as an excellent wingman to Schumacher, until he was replaced by his compatriot, Felipe Massa for 2006.

Irvine replaced Rubens at Stewart, which had been re-branded as Jaguar for the year 2000 and would continue to race at the team until he retired at the end of the 2002 season. He enjoyed moderate success at Jaguar, earning two podiums, one at Monaco and another at Monza.

#3 Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, 2002

Fisichella got the first win of his F1 career in extremely unlikely circumstances
Fisichella got the first win of his F1 career in extremely unlikely circumstances

Whenever a driver isn't winning championships, and their team boss is Flavio Briatore, you know you aren't long for this world. Giancarlo Fisichella had a decent season with Benetton in 2001, but found himself being replaced by fellow Italian, Jarno Trulli for 2002. Fisichella then went on to occupy the seat that was vacated by Trulli at Jordan.

Fisichella enjoyed a decent few years at Jordan, winning his first race at the action-packed Brazilian Grand Prix thanks an alternative strategy before returning to Benetton, now re-branded as Renault for 2005, in place of, you guessed it, Jarno Trulli. Trulli did an impressive job at Renault, and won his first race at Monaco in 2004, but that didn't save him from being sacked towards the end of that season, despite being ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in the championship standings.

#4 Fernando Alonso and Heiki Kovalainen, 2008

Alonso and Hamilton endured an infamous season together at McLaren in 2007.
Alonso and Hamilton endured an infamous season together at McLaren in 2007.

After Fernando Alonso lost his F1 crown at the end of the 2007 season and he'd wrecked his relationship with both Lewis Hamilton and McLaren, it was time to move on. The Spaniard returned to Renault for 2008, with Heiki Kovalainen, after the latter had impressed everybody in his debut F1 season. Alonso never hit the heights he did before with the Enstone outfit, thanks to a lackluster car, although he did manage a pair of race wins in 2008, one a lot more controversial than the other.

Kovalainen had a decent first year with McLaren, doing good work to help Hamilton win his first F1 title, and the Finn won his first race in Hungary during the same year. However, his career deteriorated rapidly from there, a poor season in 2009, coupled with the prospect of McLaren signing world champions Jenson Button saw Heiki exit working for 2010, where he was signed by Lotus, a team that never scored any points in the sport.

#5 Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen, 2016

Verstappen and Kvyat went in opposite directions in the RBR family back in 2016.
Verstappen and Kvyat went in opposite directions in the RBR family back in 2016.

Daniil Kvyat is returning to Formula 1 to drive for the Toro Rosso team next year, but he had been kicked out of the sport towards the next of 2017, thanks in part to being forced to swap seats with Max Verstappen. Kvyat had risen through the Red Bull ranks rapidly and had been driving for the Milton Keynes outfit for just over a year before he took out Sebastian Vettel twice in two races and found himself demoted to Toro Rosso for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

This seemed to be a bad stroke of luck for the Russian, but it got even worse, as Verstappen went on to win the race in Barcelona and become the youngest ever Grand Prix victor in Kvyat's old car.

It's a stretch to say that Daniil would've won had he still been with Red Bull, but it must've been a kick in the teeth. From there, the pair went down contrasting paths, Verstappen going on to win 4 more races and be generally regarded as one of the fastest drivers on the grid, while Kvyat was sacked from Toro Rosso before the end of the 2017 season.

Edited by Rajdeep Puri

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