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.