I heard many people joking and complaining about the fact that Toro Rosso will have a fourth driver this season in their cars. After disappointing results from Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly replaced him at Toro Rosso. Due the disappointing results of Jolyon Palmer he had to leave the Renault F1 Team, and Carlos Sainz took his seat. This meant an empty seat at Toro Rosso. Daniil Kvyat returned to the team. Due the fact that Gasly will drive the final in the Super Formula, Brendon Hartley will take over his seat during the Japanese Grand Prix. However, back in the 70s, 80s and 90s it was normal to have driver changes.
Driver changes are from all eras however most of the times it does not happen with a healthy team as Toro Rosso, but they are the exception. Due circumstances they had to. Mostly the driver changes happened because a team did not have any money left so they needed other pay drivers. Some good example was the Super Aguri Team in 2006; they also used four drivers that year. Who doesn’t remember Yuji Ide? Everyone loved the Japanese but he never made it on the track. He was replaced by Franck Montagny, which was replaced by Sakon Yamamoto (remember him?).
Another example was the failed team of Victor Muller, the Etihad Aldar Spyker F1 Team, basically the biggest shame in the Dutch motorsport history. The team was doomed to fail even before it drove a single meter with their cars. It was clear that driver changes would occur by the team. Christijan Albers drover the first nine races, before he was kicked. Markus Winkelhock drove only one race, to be replaced by Sakon Yamamoto (there he is again). Later the team was sold to Vijay Mallya.
However, the driver changes the last year’s means nothing compared to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when many teams entered the Formula One circus looking for their bit of luck. Of course, most of these teams did not have any money and it was more than normal to replace drivers for drivers who would even pay more to drive some Grand Prix at the back off the grid. With little of none chance to have a decent score.
Let us go back to 1989 when there were more teams existing in the Formula One than places on the grid. One of these teams was the Rial Racing team. The team used five drivers that year, pure for their money, not because of their talent. All right, some had a bit of talent. Christian Danner did the first 13 races before Gregor Foitek replaced him, after one race he had to move for Bertrand Gachot. In addition, Volker Weidler had to move and was replaced by Pierre-Henri Raphanel for the rest of the season. However, Rial was not the only team that had driver changes on their name. Larrousse also used four drivers that year.
The most interesting year of driver changes was the 1992 seasons, many teams who entered the Formula One racing that year where on their way to go bankrupt or where already bankrupt and tried to desperately stay in the Formula One by giving lots of paydrivers the opportunity to fail during the pre-qualifications. In addition, if they made it on the grid they would end up with a DNF because some car parts broke down. One of these teams was the Brabham (Motor Racing Developments) team who had Giovanna Amati behind the wheel. More a PR stunt to gain extra money. Or how about the March F1 Team who had Paul Belmondo behind the wheel. And also Jan Lammers, and with al respect for Lammers also this was some kind of a PR stunt, but he was still a decent driver and managed to qualify the March, what if the team survived the winter of 1993? And then of course we have the Andrea Moda Team… well what can I say about it? The team is known for it’s strange owner and of Perry McCarthy 100 meters in a Formula one car. For the rest the team is long forgotten by most of us.
There are many more examples of driver changes in the Formula One. Just look at the history of Formula One and you see that it’s more common to have several driver changes in a season per team, then it’s an exception.