Former F1 pilot Alessandro ‘Sandro’ Nannini is celebrating his 51st birthday today!

Born into a talented family in the town of Siena, his father was an accomplished baker and his sister became one of Italy’s leading rock singers. For Sandro, it was all about car racing.

His first forays into motorsport came in the 1970s in rallying, before he switched to open-wheeled competition and drove for Minardi in the 1982 Formula 2 championship.

By 1986, he had made his F1 debut with Minardi, and despite being a clear number-two to his mercurial team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, it was Sandro who had the more senior compatriot’s measure. A further year with the Faenza team followed before he was appointed at Benetton in 1988, as team-mate to Thierry Boutsen.

Alessandro Nannini It was here that he started to blossom, picking up regular points finishes and was a solid contender in 1989, peaking with victory at that year’s infamous victory at the Japanese Grand Prix after Ayrton Senna was disqualified for an illegal push-start by the marshals.

In 1990, his stock continued to rise, and he might have won the Hungarian Grand Prix but for being rammed off-track by Senna.

But tragedy would strike just a few weeks later, when he was involved in a helicopter crash that severed his hand at the forearm. Incredibly, the limb was reattached with microsurgery, but his F1 days were over.

Having fully recovered, Sandro was a regular competitor with Alfa Romeo between 1992-6 in the Italian Touring car Championship, winning races aplenty and proving that he had lost none of his touch and finesse behind the wheel.

Cruelly, it was a blossoming F1 career cut short.

[Original image via The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.