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Italian Grand Prix: Six of the Best: Italian Nearlymen

Nannini frequently outpaced his veteran team-mate, but couldn't match the Belgian's consistency. By the end of 1989 though, the Italian was blossoming into a consistent front-runner, finishing the year with a maiden win following Ayrton Senna's disqualification in Japan and a fine second place in Australia.

As number two to Nelson Piquet in 1990, Nannini matched the pace of his three-time champion team-mate, taking a brilliant second in Germany before losing a likely win in Hungary after a collision with Senna. Nannini had already signed an extension to his Benetton contract for 1991, despite interest from Ferrari, but was ultimately lucky to survive after severing his arm in a helicopter crash on the family compound in Siena.

Although surgeons were able to re-attach the limb, Nannini's single-seater racing days were over. The racing bug remained thought, and Nannini made a touring car comeback before retiring to run the family bakery business. Like de Angelis, Nannini may never have had a shot at the world championship, but his career will forever be asterisked with the 'what if' of a racer cut down in his prime.


Although his career ultimately flattered to deceive, Giancarlo Fisichella remains the last Italian to win a grand prix, in Malaysia in 2006, and was regarded as one of F1's hottest prospects in the late 1990s.

Fisichella was a selective specialist, whose career was pockmarked with stunning performances, often at Montreal or Spa, and frequent lulls of anonymity. Some of his early drives, such as the 1997 German and Belgian GPs, and the 1998 and 1999 Candian GPs, marked Fisi as a potential future champion.

From his 1997 debut with Jordan to his first year alongside Fernando Alonso at Renault in 2005, Fisichella outperformed his team-mate in every single season – including such luminaries as Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.

After years of steadily diminishing returns, victory in the crazy 2003 Brazilian GP for Jordan propelled the Italian back towards the top. A move to the front-running Renault team in 2005 alongside Fernando Alonso seemed a dream ticket for Fisi – especially after winning on his debut for the team in Australia.

However, Alonso annilhated Fisichella during their two seasons together, winning consecutive titles and scoring double Fisi's points across the two campaigns. Fisichella was never the same again, and nor would he ever again taste victory, although he came close with a classic 'rolling back the years' performance for Force India at Spa in 2009.
A passion-driven swansong for Ferrari, replacing the hapless Luca Badoer as Felipe Massa's stand-in, yielded no reward in the unwieldy F60, but Fisichella did fulfill a lifelong dream by racing for the Scuderia.

His career though will be remembered as one of missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. As Martin Brundle famously surmised, Fisichella 'underperformed in a good car and overperformed in a poor car', ultimately flattering to deceive when handed the opportunity he had seemed destined to grasp.

by Will Saunders

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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