By Mark Walton
A NEW RACES INTO the F1 season, and already there are rumours about drivers getting dropped or replaced. Williams has had a dreadful season and Sirotkin is looking vulnerable; Stoffel Vandoorne lacks raw pace and is permanently in Alonso's shadow; and that youngster, Max Verstappen, surely he's going to get sacked by Red Bull. He's useless.
F1 is such a brutal business. How depressing to reach the pinnacle of your sport and think your place in history is assured, only to become a forgotten footnote. And so many drivers are forgotten: don't think that a career in F1 means fame for all eternity. Sure, for the Hamiltons and Vettels maybe, but for the Hulkenbergs and Ocons? For Danii Kvyat, Max Chilton, Jolyon Palmer? Yes, they 'made it' where others failed, but cruel obscurity beckons all the same.
For example, who remembers Pedro Diniz? That's right, the Brazilian guy, debuted in 1995 with the Forti team and ended up partnering Damon Hill at the tail-end of his career at Arrows. Was dropped in 2000 and opened a dairy farm. You do remember him? Good! Though he doesn't prove my point, I was just testing you.
Pascal Fabre. Anyone? Hey, I could package this up as a new after-dinner game, call it Trivial F1 Driver. Fabre succeeded in reaching the highest level of his sport - well done Pascal! Unfortunately, when he reached the top of the ladder he found the doomed AGS team up there, waiting for him. He raced for just the one season, 1987, scored no points and was never heard of again.
Francois Hesnault. He is actually famous for something. Not for joining Ligier in 1984; not even for being Nelson Piquet's team-mate at Brabham in 1985. No, he was the first ever driver to have the now-ubiquitous onboard TV camera fitted to his car, in the 1985 German Grand Prix. Bravo, Hesnault!
Travel further back in time and you're into real trivia territory. Anyone heard of Rikky von Opel? Born in New York in 1947 as the stonkingly rich heir to the Opel fortune (yes, as in Opel cars) Rikky was a Lichtensteiner by passport, if not by birth, and he remains the only F1 driver from that important European nation. He entered F1 in 1973 with Ensign, best finish 13th. In 1974 he went to Brabham, because the then-team owner, Bernie Ecclestone, could smell money from 1000 yards. The season didn't go great for Rikky and Bernie had to 'retire' him after six races. Championship points: nil.
Carel de Beaufort? Full name Jonkheer Carel Pieter Anthonie Jan Hubertus Godin de Beaufort, he was a wealthy aristocrat and the first Dutchman to score F1 World Championship points. He won his class at Le Mans in 1957 and entered 31 grands prix in his privately entered Porsche.
However, he's probably most famous for his accident at the Avus banked circuit in Germany in 1959. It was in the Berlin GP, a sports car support race held the day before the German Grand Prix. The Avus banking was 15 metres high, banked at 430 and surfaced with bricks. No wonder it was known as the Wall of Death. During the race, the former Ferrari driver Jean Behra spun his Porsche on the wet bricks, flew off the top of the banking and collided with a flagpole and was killed. Then Beaufort spun on the wet bricks, flew off the top of the banking, only he collided with some trees. Incredibly, the car fell 15 metres and landed on its wheels, and Carel found - to his amazement - that he was still alive. Not knowing what else to do, he drove round the back of the banking, found a gap in the fence and rejoined the race.
Next day, Carel had his photo taken sitting on the top of the banking, wearing a tweed jacket and bizarrely modern looking Converse Allstars on his feet. Try Googling it. He has a kind of bemused smile on his face, not surprisingly.
Anyway, in case you were wondering, that's why I don't want to be an F1 driver. No! Not doing it! Not even if Claire Williams rang up and begged me. I'd tell her, 'You know the old saying, Claire: “Better not to bother at all, than to think you've succeeded and then find you've be consigned to F1 oblivion on a Brazilian dairy farm.'”