It's a peculiar coincidence that Michael Schumacher began his F1 career in a car carrying ‘7up’ as it’s primary sponsor. The young German was handed his big chance after Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot took aim at London cab driver with some pepper spray. Some jail time for Gachot and a little white lie from Schumacher’s manager Willi Weber about his upstart having driving experience of Spa-Francorchamps ensured him of the drive.
Schumacher took the F1 world by storm with some impressive times during practice and a very together performance for seventh place in qualifying. Unfortunately he burned out his clutch and it failed completely as he exited Eau Rouge for the first time on the first lap.
The talent he possessed was abundantly clear. His Jordan spell didn’t last long as he was poached by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore for the very next race in Italy, to replace Roberto Moreno. The rest is history.
Following the tragic death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Williams drafted their former champion Nigel Mansell back in to help settle the team. He competed in four races and even won the season finale in Adelaide. His form was so good, despite a year our to compete in IndyCar, that McLaren pounced on Mansell for 1995. With Mercedes-Benz engines also promised, it appeared that Mansell and McLaren were on the cusp of great things.
Alas it was not to be. It turned out in pre-season testing that Mansell could barely fit in the new MP4-10 chassis. His debut for the Woking squad was put on hold until they could make alterations to the car. Those finally came to fruition for the San Marino race where Mansell had a strong run in the race. He was lying fifth before a collision with Eddie Irvine late on dropped him to tenth.
It proved to be a false dawn for both Mansell and McLaren. In Spain Mansell’s pace was awful during the race; he blamed the handling of the car and retired it on lap eighteen of the sixty five lap race. McLaren found nothing wrong with the car, Mansell quit the team, and ultimately the sport.
It’s rather easy to forget that Sebastian Vettel didn’t make his grand prix debut while driving a Red Bull sponsored F1 car. Instead, he was attired in the blue and white of BMW-Sauber in place of the mildly injured Robert Kubica. He’d already had a decent amount of F1 experience for his young age, after taking part in several Friday practice sessions the previous year.
Just like his hero Michael Schumacher, Vettel went on to qualify in seventh place for his debut. A poor start saw him drop a few places off the line but a well-measured and intelligent drive allowed him to come home and collect a solitary point. He became the first teenager ever to score points in a world championship grand prix, and a star was well and truly born.
Read part one here: F1's mid-season driver swaps: Part 1