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Italian Grand Prix: Six of the Best: Italian Nearlymen

After nomadically meandering from Rial to Dallara, de Cesaris enjoyed a resurgence for Jordan in their 1991 debut season, famously losing second place at Spa just four laps from home with a blown engine. It was the high point of a slow decline though, with de Cesaris' career ending in trademark absurd style when he couldn't be reached on holiday to stand in for Karl Wendlinger for the last two races of 1994 at Sauber, losing the chance for a swansong drive.


F1's last gentleman racer, Elio de Angelis was a dashingly handsome, highly cultured and stylishly enigmatic swashbuckling racer.

As a junior, de Angelis walked away from an option with Ferrari to enter F1 with Shadow – quickly dispensing with his reputation as a wealthy playboy pay driver by scoring a sensational second place at the 1980 Brazilian GP.

He would become inextricably linked with Lotus, signed by Colin Chapman and spending the bulk of his career racing the iconic JPS black-and-gold alongside Nigel Mansell from 1981 to 1984. Almost as legendary as his on-track exploits were his exhibitions behind the piano – as a concert-standard pianist, he famously kept the drivers entertained during a lock-in strike ahead of the 1982 South African Grand Prix. A strong 1982, backed by a maiden win in Austria, was followed by a dismal 1983 before de Angelis' strongest season in 1984, taking third in the championship behind the all-conquering McLarens.

Lotus may have endured wavering fortunes, but de Angelis consistently had the better of Mansell during their time as team-mates. His loyalty and honour would see the Lotus team pull ranks around him, leading to an uncomfortable chalk-and-cheese tension between the working class Brummie and the charismatic Roman.

A prodigal talent, de Angelis trusted in his natural talent and allied a lifelong hatred of testing with limited inclination to over-exert himself for the technical aspects of the sport – traits which stood him in poor stead alongside Ayrton Senna in 1985. The Brazilian changed the face of F1, harnessing stunning speed with unparalleled intensity and fitness.

de Angelis couldn't live with Senna, and left for Brabham for the 1986 season. With heartrending irony though, he was killed aged just 28 in a testing accident at Paul Ricard after just four races of the 1986 season. His death was a needless loss, with de Angelis succumbing to asphyxiation from a secondary fire after suffering only minor injuries in a violent accident – robbing F1 of one of its last great personalities at the dawn of the new professional era.


He may have only raced F1 cars for five years, but Alessandro Nannini's short career was on a singularly upward curve before being truncated in a helicopter accident towards the end of the 1990 season.

Coming late to single-seater racing from a sportscar background with Lancia, Nannini ascended the junior formula ladder in tandem with the Minardi team, finally entering F1 in 1986 having been controversially denied a superlicence for 1985.

Showing undoubted potential, Nannini immediately outpaced team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, but his raw speed was aligned with error-prone tendencies, especially in wheel-to-wheel combat situations. Despite two pointless seasons at Minardi, Nannini's speed convinced Benetton to hire him for 1988 alongside Thierry Boutsen.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
1979 Formula One World Championship. Ricardo Patrese (ITA), Warsteiner Arrows A2. British Grand Prix, Silverstone, 14th July 1979.
Michele Alboreto - Audi R8
Saturday, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Test Driver, Scuderia Ferrari
10.09.2011- Qualifying, Scuderia Ferrari fans
28.10.2016 - Free Practice 1, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Ferrari
27.10.2016 - Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H and Riccardo Adami (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer
27.10.2016 - Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H and Riccardo Adami (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer
27.10.2016 - Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H and Riccardo Adami (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer
Alessandro Nannini - Benetton
09.10.2016 - Race, (L-R) Andrea Stella (ITA) Mclaren race Engineer and Jost Capito (GER) McLaren Chief Executive Officer
02.10.2016 - Eric Boullier (FRA) McLaren Racing Director Bruno Michel (FRA) Gp2 Promoter
02.10.2016 - (L-R) Riccardo Adami (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
02.10.2016 - Riccardo Adami (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
04.09.2016 - Race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
04.09.2016 - Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
04.09.2016 - Race, Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12
04.09.2016 - Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
04.09.2016 - Race, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid

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September 03, 2013 11:56 AM

Nice article. Alboreto was a genuine talent and was fairly unlucky not to win the 1985 championship. As I mentioned to someone a couple of weeks ago he had horrendous reliability problems. He was only 3 points behind Prost with 5 rounds to go and his car died at all 5 races! In total he had 7 mechanical failures that year, Prost on the other hand had one failure. De Cesaris doesn't only hold the most starts without a win record, he also has most consecutive retirements - 22 and most retirements - 148, strangely Patrese has second most retirements - 146 and Alboreto has third most - 102


September 03, 2013 3:41 PM

Some colourful characters from F1's history. Though not Italian I can often appreciate the 'typically italian' strong and weak points. Often flashes of brilliance marred by inconsistency and/or poor execution. It's the same with their (classic) cars. Unfortunately F1 has gravitated towards Britain with a dab of Germany put in the mix over recent years, probably because the real big money isn't in Italy anymore these days and that shows in sports in general and F1 in particular. Ferrari has an increasingly more global profile and all the other Italian teams have long gone both from F1 and mostly from junior categories. Shame really...the sport could do with a bit more diversity.

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