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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Successful Team Debuts

With the inclusion of the Haas team for the coming season, some of the attention will be on the American team in order to see if they are going to be genuine points contenders from the very start. They’re certainly spreading optimism about their chances, but how could they rank against the most successful debutants in Formula One’s history? Here are the top ten most successful newcomers in Formula One.


Prost – 1997 Australian Grand Prix (5th) – Strong start for Le Professeur

Having taken over from the long-standing Ligier team as France’s Formula One team, Alain Prost’s reign as team owner began strongly with a fifth place for former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis. Team-mate Shinji Nakano missed out on a point’s finish in seventh place, but the efforts of Panis in the first-half of the 1997 season helped secure a sixth place finish in the constructors’ championship before his season-ending accident at the Canadian Grand Prix.



British Racing Motors – 1951 British Grand Prix (5th) – Impressive all-British debut

The start of British Racing Motors’ successful history began with a respectable result at their home race at Silverstone, in the hands of accomplished racer Reg Parnell. He and team-mate Pete Walker were last-minute additions to the grid and hadn’t even participated in a practice or qualifying session, but managed to finish the race in fifth and seventh respectively despite suffering burns to their hands and feet.


Sauber – 1993 South African Grand Prix (5th) – The Swiss team impress on F1 debut

The successful sportscar racing team – Le Mans winners in 1989 – took the plunge and entered Formula One for the 1993 season, backed by Mercedes. Both cars of JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger qualified in the top ten for the South African Grand Prix, and it was Lehto who survived the race of attrition to take fifth place for Peter Sauber’s team.


Frazer Nash – 1952 Swiss Grand Prix (4th) – The only points in their four-race history

The sports car manufacturer, run by Archibald Frazer-Nash, dabbled in a couple famous motor racing events, including the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Targa Florio and the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans. They entered the season-opening Swiss Grand Prix of 1952 and, with the aid of only eight finishers, Ken Wharton was able to take a fourth-place finish on the team’s debut. They would only compete in the rounds in Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands in the remainder of the season.


Red Bull Racing – 2005 Australian Grand Prix (4th & 7th) – Double-points debut for the Bulls

A topsy-turvy qualifying session – in the era of ‘one-lap qualifying’ rules – gave Red Bull Racing a solid platform of 5th and 6th for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Red Bull team 2005
Red Bull


A competitive race by David Coulthard saw the Scot take fourth, narrowly ahead of Mark Webber whilst team-mate Christian Klien was sandwiched between a couple of recovering McLarens in seventh. The result saw Red Bull Racing take an early third place in the constructors’ championship.


Connaught – 1952 British Grand Prix (4th & 5th) – Part-time Connaught collect points haul

A team who would never go on to complete an entire Formula One season, Connaught Engineering fielded a four-car assault on their debut at their home event – the British Grand Prix. Driven by Kennith McAlpine, Ken Downing, Eric Thompson and Dennis Poore, three of their cars qualified in the top ten, with Poore and Thompson going on to collect fourth and fifth place, giving the team a hefty five points. They may have even taken a podium finish had Downing not encountered problems in the race. The team would enter 18 races over the course of eight seasons, and would take one podium finish at the 1956 Italian Grand Prix.


March – 1970 South African Grand Prix (3rd) – Stewart Marches onto the rostrum

The March 701 car was used by several teams during the 1970 season, including numerous privateer entrants and their own works team. The works team may not have had the immediate success but as a manufacturer it found success in one of the teams they supplied to, Tyrrell. Reigning world champion Jackie Stewart benefitted from a scrappy start to lead one-quarter of the race, but settled for a solid podium finish. March took third place in the ‘International Cup for Manufacturers’ for that season, eleven points shy of the title.


Wolf – 1977 Argentine Grand Prix (1st) – Scheckter wins chaotic ’77 opener

Wolf Team 1977
Wolf Racing

After the link-up between Walter Wolf and Frank Williams Racing Cars was broken at the end of 1976, Frank Williams left to create his own team and Wolf moulded Walter Wolf Racing in a restructuring for 1977. The reshaped team were to surprise everybody by taking victory at the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix. Starting eleventh, new signing Jody Scheckter made progress during the race but took advantage of the many misfortunes of others: James Hunt and John Watson had suspension failures, Niki Lauda had fuel-related issues, Patrick Depailler had an overheating engine, Jochen Mass spun off, Gunnar Nilsson was forced to give his car to Mario Andretti, who then retired from a damaged wheel bearing and Carlos Pace slowed down due to exhaustion.

Scheckter collected another win and four more podiums to take a remarkable second in the drivers’ championship, albeit some way behind runaway leader Niki Lauda.


Brawn GP – 2009 Australian Grand Prix (1st & 2nd) – Saved from the ashes of Honda

After sixteen consecutive years in the sport – and increasing their involvement to become a full works outfit in 2005 – Honda pulled out of Formula One, leaving a team with an uncertain future. Ross Brawn bought the team on the run-up to the start of the season, but their season was to run on a vastly reduced budget and without the planned Honda engines.

Brawn Team Australia
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic

The car, which had been in under heavy development for some time, was hastily fitted with Mercedes engines – chosen purely for their ease-of-fitment in the car – and proceeded to become the pace-setter for the opening round of the season. Jenson Button led the entire race to take a stunning victory. A late collision between Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica allowed team-mate Rubens Barrichello to take second place in a dream 1-2 result for the team.


Mercedes-Benz – 1954 French Grand Prix (1st & 2nd) – Fangio & Kling stun the opposition

Mercedes Team 1954

The first Mercedes-Benz venture into Formula One yielded similar success to what has been witnessed in the last couple of seasons. However, success in their first stint came immediately and it devastated the opposition. Technically superior, Juan-Manuel Fangio switched from Maserati mid-season in order to compete for Mercedes on their debut, winning the race at Reims-Gueux by less than one second from team-mate Karl Kling. The pair destroyed all competitors (mostly Ferrari’s and Maseratis) by at least one lap.

About Luke Murphy

I've been a motor racing fan since the late 90's, enjoying the underdog stories, the history and the technology of the sport. Graduate of Huddersfield University with a BEng Motorsport Engineering Degree and a keen amateur karter.

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