Six-time Grand Prix driver Emanuele Naspetti will be celebrating his 42nd birthday today.
Naspetti won the 1988 Italian F3 championship and made his F1 debut at the 1992 Belgian GP with March. Having been drafted into the team mid-season and with no testing, little was expected of him on the daunting Spa circuit.
Naspetti surprised everyone with a faultless weekend, qualifying an impressive 21st in the wet and matching the pace of his more-experienced team-mate Karl Wendlinger to finish 12th. It prompted F1 commentator Murray Walker to describe his drive as "heroic".
Naspetti saw out the rest of the season with March, but was in the F1 wilderness for the 1993 season until he was offered a test driver lifeline with Jordan. When Thierry Boutsen retired after that year’s Belgian GP, he was offered the gig for the rest of the season – although he would be required to trump up $50,000 for the privilege.
In spite of his sponsors being quite willing to fork out the dough, he incredibly turned down the gig for his home race in Italy, which instead went to Marco Apicella.
Having seen the error of his ways, Emanuele came up with the money for the Portuguese GP, but irked team boss Eddie Jordan by demanding paddock passes for his father and girlfriend – a considerable expense for the cash-strapped team.
Perhaps karma came around to bite him, because he retired from the race after 8 laps when his Hart engine seized. Jordan did not exercise an option on Emanuele’s services for the Japanese Grand Prix, and drafted in Eddie Irvine with considerable success.
Emanuele would never grace the F1 stage again, and went on to win the 1997 Italian Touring Car Championship.
[Image via Motorsports Almanac]
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