Andrea de Cesaris is turning 51 today!
Well-known in F1 circles as being one of F1’s most accident-prone drivers, de Cesaris’ 208 Grand Prix career was the longest of any driver not to have won a single race. He also holds the record for the most race retirements of any F1 driver: 137 in total!
De Cesaris was a former World Karting Champion who made his F1 debut at the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix for Alfa Romeo. He had also signed onto Ron Dennis’ Project Four organisation for a season in Formula 2 and joined the McLaren team for a full season in 1981.
Not only was Andrea fast, but he was also wild. A season punctuated by countless wrecked chassis and just a single championship point earned him the nickname of ‘De Crasheris’ by the British press. He certainly wasn’t going to be offered another season with McLaren (indeed, the team has never hired an Italian driver since!), and probably wouldn’t have been given another shot in F1, especially if the other drivers had been given a say in the matter…
But as ever, other factors came into consideration, and it was Andrea’s close association with Marlboro cigarette sponsorship that many subsequent teams found difficult to resist.
It was back to Alfa Romeo for 1982, where he qualified on pole and led at Long Beach, only to be passed by Niki Lauda and then slap the wall trying to keep up. He stayed with Alfa doe 1983, brilliantly leading the Belgian Grand Prix until a mechanical failure intervened.
Thereafter, his career went into a steady decline, and spells at Ligier (1984-5), Minardi (1986), Brabham (1987), Rial (1988) and Dallara (1989-90) bringing little in the way of reward, but plenty more accidents and a lengthy list of frustrated fellow drivers who grew all the more irritated with his dreadful on-track manners.
Just when it looked as though no further offers would be forthcoming and his time in the F1 sun had set, the debutante Jordan team called him up for the 1991 season, where he proved quite the revelation. He came close to landing second place – if not a miraculous win – at Spa Francorchamps, only for his Ford engine to go pop.
The next year saw him signed up to Tyrrell, where he again impressed with some quality drives, but the 1993 season was thin in terms of results, and no drivers were on the cards for 1994.
But two races came about as a stand-in at Jordan (in place of the suspended Eddie Irvine), and then he moved to Sauber as a replacement for the injured Karl Wendlinger. Now regarded as a much steadier and calmer man behind the wheel, the curtain finally came down on a 15-year career – the seventh-longest of all time in F1 – with just two second-place finishes (Germany and South Africa 1983) as the highest finishes on his roster.
After leaving F1, Andrea became a currency trader and, of all things, a champion windsurfer.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]