Celebrating his 60th birthday today, former Grand Prix driver Piercarlo Ghinzani once very aptly said: “It is better to be at the back in Formula 1 than not be in Formula 1 at all.” We certainly couldn’t have put it better ourselves!
And that’s pretty much where the Bergamo-born driver stayed during his nine-season F1 career, at the back of the grid with tail-end teams.
It was perhaps more by the clinching of sponsorship deals than outright pace that Piercarlo was able to extend his F1 career for so long, and it took him an awfully long time to get there too. Starting in motor racing in 1970, it took him until 1973 before he broke into Formula 3, and a further four years before he won the European title and graduated to Formula 2.
Called in as a last-minute replacement at Osella in 1981, he started what would be a long, although not very fruitful, association with the little Italian team. The only points finish of his career came at the attrition-hit 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, where he survived on the disintegrating track to finish fifth.
He briefly switched to Toleman in 1985, but returned to Osella again in 1986, switched to Ligier for 1987, Zakspeed for 1988, and finally again to Osella for his last season in 1989.
On the basis of his equipment, Piercarlo was never going to feature at the pointy end of the field – the highest he ever qualified was 13th – and he certainly was never destined to lead a race, ranking tenth on the all time list of our ‘Never Led a Race’ top-ten feature.
Two points from 112 entries – including a mammoth 36 times where he failed to make the grid – cast Piercarlo as one of F1’s all-time tail-end heroes.
Piercarlo is still active in motorsport circles, with his Team Ghinzani outfit running teams in several European feeder categories. He was also the seat holder for the Italian entry in the A1GP series.