Highest rank in last season without retiring?

Sports Asked on April 18, 2021

With Perez almost not having a drive next year after finishing 4th in the Drivers championship, I wonder:

Who are the top 5 of drivers that had the highest rank of the Worlds Driver Championship in their last season, but were forced to retire because their contract was not renewed? (the fact that it was their last year was not their decision)

One Answer

If you're not excluding drivers who subsequently returned to the sport in later years (after "retiring") then the obvious answer would appear to be Kimi Räikkönen - he finished 6th in the 2009 championship only to get the elbow in favor of Alonso. Of course strictly speaking it wasn't that Kimi's contract wasn't renewed, IIRC Ferrari paid both him and Alonso and just had Alonso in the car.

If we're only considering drivers who never returned then Nick Heidfeld comes to mind - he came 11th in the 2011 WDC after a fairly messy parting with Lotus Renault GP (only 11 races in to the season) and he expressed a desire/expectation to return to the sport at the time.

One driver with a higher "last" championship finish then Heidfeld is the man Perez is replacing at Red Bull Racing - Alex Albon, he finished 7th in the 2020 WDC. He's without a race seat for 2021 and it certainly wasn't his Plan A! However we don't know yet whether he will return to the grid in the future or not.

Answered by motosubatsu on April 18, 2021

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