Despite its enduring status as one of the historic cradles of motorsport, Italy hasn't produced a Formula One world champion for 60 years, since Alberto Ascari's 1953 championship win sealed a third Italian title in the first four seasons of the new formula.
has successfully carried the honour and affections of Italy to the tune of 204 wins, 16 Constructors' Championships and 13 Drivers' Championships since the days of Ascari, the fortunes of Italy's drivers during the same period have been much less favourable. Of the 13 Italians to have tasted victory since Ascari's 1953 championship win, only four have won more than one race, and arguably only one, Michele Alboreto in 1985, has mounted a serious title challenge.
There have been extenuating circumstances though, with generations of supremely talented Italian racers cursed by bad timing, ill fortune, and, in some cases, tragedy. Crash.net
profiles six of the Italian racers who came closest to breaking the 60-year jinx.
F1's original 'Mr Longevity', Riccardo Patrese won six races and took 31 podiums across a 17-year career that took in a then-record 256 grands prix.
An initial burst of success in F1 with Shadow and Arrows was tarnished by Patrese's implication in Ronnie Peterson's fatal accident at Monza in 1978 – for which he was eventually cleared at trial in 1981. The damage to his reputation took longer to shed though and, despite wins for Brabham at Monaco in 1982 and South Africa in 1983, Patrese's early career was defined by erratic performances and volatile reliability – twin factors that saw him dropped by Brabham after trailing home ninth in the standings to world champion team-mate Nelson Piquet in 1983.
The mid-'80s were hard on Patrese, as his career bore the rapid decline and poor performance of the Alfa Romeo and Brabham teams. Patrese earned enduring respect for his consistent temperament and refusal to criticise his team through the lean years though. His calm, considered and 'un-Italian' reaction to consistent hardship underscored a fierce loyalty to his team, helping to shed the aspersions of aloof arrogance that dogged his early career. Over time, the enfant terrible
became a venerable elder statesman, a benevolent team player motivated by the simple serenity of racing F1 cars.
Raw speed may have always been part of Patrese's make-up, but it was only later aligned to consistency and success. The autumn of his career was an extended Indian summer, with five seasons at Williams
ultimately bringing four wins in ever-more competitive machinery. Patrese had the fortune to race one of F1's greatest cars, the 1992 Williams
FW14B, but the misfortune of doing so alongside an inspired Nigel Mansell, taking a career-best but distant second to Mansell in the championship.
The odd-man out in the scrap between Prost, Senna and Mansell for a Williams
seat in 1993, Patrese switched to Benetton, but was resoundingly crushed in his final campaign by the up-and-coming Michael Schumacher. Patrese retired as F1's most experienced driver, a record he held until Rubens Barrichello
took the baton in 2008.
A genial, self-effacing and studious racer, Michele Alboreto came closest to exorcising the ghost of Ascari, with a battling second place to Alain Prost for Ferrari
in the 1985 championship.