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From Formula One To Rallying: Three Drivers Who Switched Gears

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Formula One racing is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating and competitive sports in the world. With speeds reaching up to 220mph, drivers compete in some of the most glamorous locations on the planet all with the aim of securing their spot at the top of the podium. However, while the sport is usually a thrill ride, this season has been anything but and the destiny of the world championship has been a foregone conclusion ever since the get-go.

Back at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen claimed his maiden world championship when he overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap amidst a firestorm of controversy. However, the nearly two years since has been anything but controversial. Super Max romped to a second consecutive title last season in record-breaking fashion, and this term, he has been even more impressive.

Verstappen’s Dominance

So far throughout 2023, the Dutch sensation has won 13 of the 16 Grand Prix contested. He has romped into a 177-point lead at the top of the world championship standings and his quest for a third straight crown looks unstoppable. In fact, he has been so dominant that a popular Canadian sportsbook isn’t even providing odds on Verstappen winning the 2023 world championship. The best they can offer is a “without Verstappen” market, a market in which his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez is currently the -1200 favorite to win.

However, while F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports for most, some drivers seek further challenges beyond the track, and they try their hand at rally car racing. Let’s take a look at three of the most popular drivers who also tried their hand in the world of rallying.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen is one of the most iconic figures in the F1 history, having competed in a whopping 353 Grand Prix – second most of all time behind current Aston Martin man Fernando Alonso – he has earned his place among the greats of the sport. The Flying Finn secured his first and only World Driver’s Championship back in 2007, taking full advantage of Lewis Hamilton’s catastrophic finish to the campaign to sneak his way to glory.

Raikkonen retired from the sport once and for all at the end of the 2021 season. However, back in 2009, he also briefly retired. He took a three-year hiatus before returning with Lotus Renault in 2012 and during his time away, found himself in the World Rally Championship.

He joined the Junior World Rally Championship in 2011, soaring up the ranks in his Citroen DS3 WRC. Although his results were mixed, he still managed to achieve a career-high fifth-place finish at the 2010 Rally Finland. The following year, he participated in two rallies but failed to complete any of them due to technical problems that forced him to withdraw.

Following his return to Formula One, the Finnish driver would spend a further nine years at the pinnacle of the sport. Two victories with a lowly Lotus team secured him a return to Ferrari where he would form a formidable partnership with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Although the pair couldn’t secure a world championship for the Scuderia, Raikkonen would seal his 21st and final victory at the 2018 United States Grand Prix, before moving on to Alfa Romeo to wind down his career.

Heikki Kovalainen

Fellow Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen also tried his luck in rallying after leaving F1. During his time in the world of formula racing, the 41-year-old would race for a number of illustrious outfits including Renault and McLaren, famously helping Lewis Hamilton to a maiden world championship in 2008. He secured his first and only Grand Prix victory that season, taking full advantage of some tricky conditions to get the win in Hungary.

After spending four years as a backmarker with Lotus – who would then become Caterham – Kovalainen joined the Drive Dmack Trophy team in 2014, the feeder series for the World Rally Championship. He completed the FIA European Rally Championship before switching to America to participate in the Rallycross championship. The Finnish driver has been competing in the series since 2016 and has shown steady progress.

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica was once one of the most promising talents in Formula One, with his performances earning him a spot as a BMW Sauber driver in 2006. He looked like he may well battle it out for the world championship in 2008 however, was ultimately unable to keep pace with the aforementioned Hamilton and title rival Felipe Massa. He had a successful career until a horrific rally crash in 2011 that nearly cost him his life.

However, that didn’t put him off for good. After a long two-year recovery process, the Polish driver returned to the world of rally in 2013 and would spend four years in the sport before returning to F1. Kubica first drove for the M-Sport team before signing with the WRC 2 squad of Citroën for the 2019 season.

Written by Marcus

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