Kevin Magnussen is the latest of only six drivers to have scored the only podium finish of their F1 career on their Grand Prix debut. We take a look at the drivers to have done the same as the Dane.
Peter Whitehead took his only podium finish on his F1 debut at the 1950 French Grand Prix. The Brit, from Menston, Yorkshire took third place in the race at the Reims circuit in a privateer Ferrari. He was the first driver to whom Enzo Ferrari sold an F1 car. Whitehead was due to make his Grand Prix debut at Monaco earlier in the season, but didn’t start the race due to engine issues. He very nearly won the French event, but a gearbox problem slowed him down and he finished third. Whitehead competed in nine more Grands Prix through to 1954, but never scored a point again.
Dorino Serafini (in the centre in the above photo) was a notable motorcycle road racer, who won the 1939 500cc European Championship. He entered four-wheel races in 1950, starting with two non-championship events – the San Remo Grand Prix and the Bari Grand Prix. He made his championship debut at the 1950 Italian Grand Prix, where he raced 47 laps before handing his car over to Alberto Ascari whose own car had come to a halt. Ascari finished the race as runner-up, and the shared drive earned Serafini three championship points. He never raced in a championship F1 Grand Prix again, thus giving him a record as being the only driver to have appeared on the podium in 100% of his F1 Grand Prix appearances.
Giancarlo Baghetti is the only driver on this list to have won his debut Grand Prix. He did so at the 1961 French Grand Prix, with his Ferrari finishing just a tenth of a second ahead of Dan Gurney. He’s one of only three drivers to have won on their F1 debut, one being Giuseppe Farina who won the first F1 race at Silverstone in 1950 and the other being Johnny Parsons, who will be mentioned later. Baghetti continued in F1 through to 1967 with various teams, but never scored another top three finish. In fact, the 1962 Netherlands Grand Prix, where he finished fourth, was the only other event in which he scored.
Swedish driver Reine Wisell joined Team Lotus for the 1970 US Grand Prix in unhappy circumstances. Jochen Rindt had been killed while driving for the team at the Italian Grand Prix meeting just a month previously. With Rindt gone and John Miles leaving the team as a result of the tragedy, Wisell stepped into the latter’s seat for the US race at Watkins Glen. Wisell finished third in his maiden race, scoring the only podium of his five-season career. He’d remain at Team Lotus for the following season, where he picked up nine more points, but failed to score at all in his last three years in the sport.
American racer Mark Donohue made his F1 debut at the 1971 Canadian Grand Prix for the Penske team. The race was held in terrible conditions, with heavy rain making the track treacherous. That didn’t stop Donohue, though. He was running in third when the race was stopped after 64 laps, becoming the first ever F1 race to be red-flagged. It was Donohue’s only top three finish in his F1 career, which was ended by a fatal accident at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
A gap of 43 years separates the first and only podium finishes for Mark Donohue and Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen made his first F1 appearance at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, where he finished third for McLaren. He was eventually given the runner-up spot following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the event. Magnussen, who went on to race for Renault and Haas, never picked up another top three finish in his career. He finished a best of fifth three times since then, at the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, and the 2018 Bahrain and Austrian Grands Prix.
The Indianapolis Debutantes
George Amick, Mike Nazaruk, Manuel Ayulo, Mauri Rose, Johnnie Parsons and Bill Holland all scored their only F1 podiums on their first appearance at the Indianapolis 500 race as a round of the Drivers’ Championship between 1950 and 1960. All of the drivers mentioned in this list made their only appearances in F1 races at the oval circuit.
Header Image: Heimo Ruschitz / CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.