F1 » 3 September 2013
Italian Grand Prix: Six of the Best: Italian Nearlymen
A Tyrrell protégé, Alboreto rose steadily up the grid following his debut in 1981, taking wins in Las Vegas in 1982 and Detroit in 1983 to establish himself as a regular front-runner – and a formidable street circuit specialist. Alboreto's Detroit win was the last victory for a normally aspirated car before the turbo monopoly, an era that would see Alboreto's zenith as Ferrari's lead driver.
Signing for Ferrari for the 1984 season, Alboreto became the first Italian to race for the Maranello outfit since Arturio Mezario in 1973 – with Enzo Ferrari breaking his famous rule about hiring Italian drivers in order to secure Alboreto's services.
After picking up a win at Zolder en route to fourth in the 1984 championship, Alboreto really came to the fore in 1985, winning the Canadian and German grands prix as Ferrari took the fight to Prost and McLaren. Alboreto was level in the standings with Prost at the mid-point of the season, but four successive mechanical retirements at season's end gifted the Frenchman his first title.
Alboreto would never challenge again, and Gerhard Berger's arrival at Ferrari in 1987 put paid to his lead driver aspirations. Asked to seek a drive elsewhere for 1989, Alboreto rejoined Tyrrell, but this was the start of a dramatic downturn in the Italian's fortunes. Alboreto would spend his final years in F1 bouncing around the bottom order, and despite a renaissance for Footwork in 1992, would score only seven points across his final five seasons – three of which finished pointless.
After leaving F1 in 1994, Alboreto established a successful sportscar career, winning Le Mans in 1997, but was tragically killed testing for Audi in 2001.
ANDREA DE CESARIS
One of F1's true Jekyll and Hyde characters, Andrea de Cesaris had a career that encompassed the ridiculous and, all too rarely, the sublime. A veteran of 208 grands prix, de Cesaris holds the unfortunate record for the most race starts without a victory.
Prone to bouts of Latin temperament, de Cesaris had to work hard to overcome his early-career moniker of 'de Crasheris'. Catapulted into F1 aged 21 by his Marlboro connections, his first disastrous forays were summed up when McLaren withdrew him from the 1981 Dutch GP out of concern that he would wreck the car following five straight retirements through driver error.
Sacked by McLaren after scoring one point to team leader John Watson's 27 in 1981, de Cesaris showed flashes of speed in 1982 for Alfa Romeo, becoming the then youngest pole-sitter aged 22 at Long Beach and famously running out of fuel when poised to win on the last lap in Monaco.
Despite his improving form, de Cesaris found himself sliding down the grid from Alfa Romeo to Ligier, and was summarily sacked after a spectacular barrel-rolling exit from the 1985 Austrian GP.
Taking his Marlboro sponsorship from team to team, the mid-late 80s were a dismal time for the Italian, setting astonishingly poor finishing records: 18 consecutive non-finishes across 1985/86, 12 consecutive mechanical failures from his first 12 races started in 1986 and finishing just three races from 31 starts across the 1986/87 seasons for Minardi and Brabham.
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