With GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne getting the call to replace the injured Fernando Alonso for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the 24-year-old Belgian looks set to join a select band of drivers who only ever competed in one World Championship GP aboard a McLaren. It may transpire, of course, that double World Champion Alonso, who suffered that massive smash in the season-opening Australian GP, is still not fit to race in China in two weeks’ time, in which case Vandoorne will stand in again. For now, though, let’s work on the theory that it’s a one-off for a young man who becomes the 21st driver from Belgium to race at the top level. Who are the other eight drivers who got one go in a McLaren? And in what car, where and when did they do it?
MAR 31st 2016
8 McLaren Stand‑Ins – Why Vandoorne Has A Lot To Live Up To!
BASIL VAN ROOYEN – SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1969
The South African contested his home race at Kyalami at the start of 1969. He qualified his Team Lawson M7A-Cosworth a respectable ninth, one place behind the works car of Bruce McLaren, but became the race’s first retirement with brake trouble after 12 laps. It was his second and final race, having participated at Kyalami 12 months earlier in a Cooper T79-Climax.
DEREK BELL – BRITISH GP, 1969
The Englishman’s third of nine GP starts came on home soil at Silverstone in the four-wheel-drive M9A-Cosworth. Bell qualified 15th and slowest of the four McLarens in the race – Denny Hulme’s M7A, Bruce McLaren’s M7C and Vic Elford’s privately run M7B – and suffered suspension failure after just five laps in the recalcitrant and one-off M9A.
MARK DONOHUE – CANADIAN GP, 1971
US racing hero Donohue made his F1 debut in a Penske-White Racing M19A-Cosworth, an identical car to the sole works car of Denny Hulme, at Mosport in 1971. He outqualified Hulme to line-up eighth, two places ahead of the Kiwi legend, and raced to a strong third for a debut podium finish. He contested 13 more GPs, in 1974/’75, for Penske and March, with no more podiums and, in Austria ’75, a tragic end to his career.
JACKY ICKX – GERMAN GP, 1973
The great Ferrari GP and sportscar winner found himself in a McLaren for the race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife after Ferrari pulled out of the race. Belgian Ickx was a master of the ‘Ring and qualified the Yardley M23-Cosworth fourth – ahead of both regular drivers Peter Revson and Denny Hulme. In the race, he took a superb podium finish, behind only the dominant Tyrrells of Jackie Stewart and François Cevert.
PHILIPPE ALLIOT – HUNGARIAN GP, 1994
McLaren’s French test driver Alliot found himself replacing Mika Hakkinen for the race in Budapest after the Finn was suspended following a collision in the previous German GP, which had come after a suspended ban in the British GP at Silverstone. Alliot qualified the difficult, Peugeot V10-powered MP4-9 14th – eight places behind team-mate Martin Brundle – and retired with a water leak after 21 laps.
GILLES VILLENEUVE – BRITISH GP, 1977
Thanks to recommendation from World Champion and McLaren #1 James Hunt, who’d seen him in action in Formula Atlantic, Gilles Villeneuve found himself entered in a third works McLaren, an elderly M23-Cosworth, at Silverstone. The French-Canadian prodigy qualified ninth, two places ahead of Jochen Mass in one of the two M26s, and finished 11th, after numerous pitstops. His next outing would be for Ferrari, with which he’d cement his legendary status over the next five years.
JAN MAGNUSSEN – PACIFIC GP, 1995
Dane Jan Magnussen also got his first outing in F1 with McLaren thanks to Mika Hakkinen, this time because the Finn was stymied by an appendicitis operation. Magnussen qualified the #8 Mercedes V10-powered MP4-10B in 12th place, just two spots behind his more experienced team-mate Mark Blundell. In the race, Magnussen stayed out of trouble to finish behind Blundell in 10th, which in today’s currency would’ve earned him a World Championship point.
ALEXANDER WURZ – SAN MARINO GP, 2005
The Austrian, a veteran of 52 races for Benetton, stood in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya – anyone for tennis?! – and qualified seventh at Imola in the MP4-20. A fair effort considering he hadn’t raced since the final GP of 2000. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had taken pole and led the first eight laps until a halfshaft failure put him out. Wurz, meanwhile, kept his cool and finished third, albeit nearly half a minute behind the duelling Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
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