The mercurial Stefano Modena is turning 47 today!
Known as one of Formula 1’s most superstitious drivers – he used to race wearing one glove inside-out, and once forced the team mechanics to swap team-mate Martin Brundle’s car to the other side of the garage as he felt it was unlucky to be on that side himself – Stefano’s F1 career failed to deliver on the promise that he showed in the junior formulae.
After winning the 1986 Monaco Formula 3 a race en route to the European F3 title, the F1 world quickly sat up and took notice of this tousle-haired Italian, who would go on to win the 1987 Formula 3000 title as well.
He made his F1 debut that year for Brabham at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix, retiring with exhaustion mid-race. He had impressed many that weekend, and was signed with the Euro Brun team for 1988.
It was a woeful baptism to F1, and the car was a pig that he could rarely qualify. Somehow, he managed to get into the re-formed Brabham team in 1989, and picked up a fine third place at Monaco.
Stefano switched to Tyrrell for 1991, and stunned the paddock when he qualified on the front row at Monaco. Sadly, a podium finish went begging when he slammed into the tunnel’s Armco barriers after Riccardo Patrese’s Williams dropped oil. It was a devastating outcome for Stefano, but he bounced back with a second-placed finish at Canada.
But, as Tyrrell’s form waned, so Stefano’s motivation went with it, and a year spent tooling around at the back of the field with Jordan in 1992 was the last the F1 world would see of him behind the wheel.