Ranking the Most Successful Driving Careers After F1
It was announced today that 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve is to start a new career in yet another form of motorsport.
Having achieved ultimate glory in the highest form of motorsport over 16 years ago, Villeneuve endured varying levels of success at Le Mans and NASCAR and would easily be forgiven for hanging up his gloves and helmet.
But once a racer, always a racer and Villeneuve has decided to compete in the new World Rallycross Championship with Albatec Racing.
Here are five others who have continued to enjoy successful racing careers after life in F1.
For the purposes of the list, drivers who have enjoyed brief stints in motorsport series before returning to F1 again, such as Kimi Raikkonen and Nigel Mansell, have been discounted.
It’s fair to say that Michael Andretti endured something of a nightmare stint in Formula One when he joined McLaren in 1993.
Andretti had won the IndyCar championship in 1991 but it was always going to be a tall order as team-mate to the great Ayrton Senna and the American also struggled with the more agile and technical F1 cars.
He managed only three points-scoring finishes before leaving the team to return to America where he once again found his feet.
Back in his more familiar surroundings, Andretti won on his first race back in IndyCar in 1994 and he finished runner-up to Jimmy Vasser in the 1996 championship.
When he finally retired in 2002, Andretti had managed the third most wins in the history of the sport and his F1 nightmare was truly behind him.
Having fought his way back from a career-threatening horror crash in a Formula 3000 race in Brands Hatch where he shattered both of his legs, Johnny Herbert forged a successful F1 career.
Herbert won twice for Benetton in 1995 and secured Stewart Grand Prix’s only victory in 1999 before retiring from the sport after a season with Jaguar Racing in 2000.
If Herbert’s F1 career could be described as a success, his Le Mans career that followed was equally so. Herbert was already a Le Mans champion after winning the 24 Hours for Mazda in 1991 alongside Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot.
He went on to achieve further success after F1; Herbert won the 2004 Le Mans Series Championship with Jamie Davies and finished second overall in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Herbert has also won several rounds of the American Le Mans Series.
Robert Kubica was firmly on course for F1 super-stardom when passion for rallying almost cost him his life when he was horribly injured in a serious accident in the Ronde di Andora in February 2011.
The accident almost severed his right arm and caused multiple fractures to the right-hand side of his body after a section of the Armco penetrated his car’s safety cage and sliced into his body. He came within inches of death and will almost certainly never drive an F1 car in anger again.
Since then, Kubica has made a remarkable recovery and recently took the biggest win of his fledgling rally career in the ERC Janner Rally in Austria. As shown in the above clip, an incredible final stage effort saw him overturn an 11.8-second deficit to win by 19.9 seconds.
"There was only one year in my career that I have not been on the podium, in 2007, so starting by being on the podium and winning the rally is always nice but we have to keep our feet on the ground," Kubica said, as quoted on Autosport. "This year will be a big challenge, participating in the WRC with the top drivers and the new rallies coming.”
If Robert Kubica’s comeback to racing after his brush with death is inspiring, former Williams driver Alex Zanardi’s story is nothing short of miraculous.
Zanardi competed in Formula 1 from 1991 to 1994 with Jordan, Minardi and Lotus respectively before three highly successful seasons in America saw him win the CART series with Chip Ganassi in 1997 and 1998.
The popular Italian returned for another stint in F1 with Williams in 1999, but an unsuccessful return saw him return to CART with Mo Nunn in 2001.
Making ground on his rivals in Round 15 at the Lausitzring, Zanardi spun into the path of Alex Tagliani and his car was severed at the nose. Zanardi lost both legs in the accident and almost three-quarters of his blood volume.
Remarkably Zanardi not only survived but went on to win four races in the World Touring Car Championship in specially modified cars before retiring in 2009.
The Zanardi success story did not end there; he won a gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympics in the men's road time trial H4.
And the Not so Good: Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya
Although Ralf Schumacher spent the majority of his Formula One career in the shadow of his illustrious brother, he was no slouch himself and managed six race victories of his own for Williams.
Schumacher retired from the sport in 2007 to participate in the German DTM series but his results have hardly set the world on fire, with a highest series placing of 8th and no wins to his name.
Montoya was Schumacher’s team-mate at Williams from 2001-2004 and the Colombian generally had the better of things, placing higher in the standings from 2002-2004.
But since his switch to NASCAR in 2006, Montoya has been a huge disappointment with just two Sprint Cup Series victories and one Nationwide Series win in eight years of trying.