Former F1 drivers Gianfranco Brancatelli and Christian Fittipaldi are celebrating their respective birthdays today.
Turning 61 today, Brancatelli’s F1 career was curtailed after just three championship appearances with the lamentable Kaushen and Merzario F1 outfits in 1979.
Turn-born Gianfranco’s motorsport career started in 1973 when he competed in the Formula Abarth series, advancing to Italian Formula 3 in 1975, finishing second overall in his debut season.
His f1 debut saw him join the little Kaushen concern, which was entering its debut season with what amounted to being little more than a kit car. Right from the outset, it was clear that he stood little hope of making the grid, qualifying slowest of all at his first outing at Jarama, with a gap to pole man Jacques Laffite of nearly nine seconds.
He was even slower at the next round at Zolder, lapping the dreadful car slow enough around the Belgian circuit to make the Mastercard Lola effort proud, and when Arturo Merzario crashed his eponymous car in practice at that event, Brancatelli was called up to replace him at Monaco, where he predictably failed to qualify after failing to post a time at all.
After F1, Brancatelli would progress to a successful career in touring cars and endurance races, with some highlights being his winning the 1985 European Touring Car Championship crown, the 1985 Guia race at Macau, the Spa 24 Hours in 1989 and finishing second overall at the 1987 Daytona 24 Hours.
Celebrating his 40th birthday today is Christian Fittipaldi, nephew of the multiple champion Emerson and son of Emerson’s F1 sibling, Wilson.
After placing fourth overall in the 1990 British F3 championship, Christian moved into Formula 3000 for 1991, beating Alessandro Zanardi to the championship crown when the Italian was called up to F1 late in the season.
The result was enough to see him signed by the Minardi team for the 1992 season, but his debut season suffered an interruption when a practice crash at Magny Course saw him forced onto the sidelines for a few races due to back injuries he sustained, where he was replaced by (of all ironies) Zanardi. But he returned once recuperated and bounced back with his first championship point at Japan, which was the team’s only points’ finish all season.
Staying on with the cash-strapped squad for 1993, he started brilliantly with an excellent fourth at South Africa – following it up with a fifth at Monaco, but his form waned along with the team’s finances, and he was stood down for the final two rounds so Jean-Marc Gounon to have a go and get his sponsors to fill Minardi’s coffers.
He joined Footwork for 1994 and again impressed with two fourth place (this time at Aida and Hockenheim), and he also ran well at Monaco again until his gearbox packed up. But the team’s form waned as the season wore on, and he struggled in the wake of the death of his compatriot and great friend, Senna.
Frustrated by his lack of progress, Fittipaldi walked away from F1 and headed to the Indy Car championship in 1995, finishing second at the Indianapolis 500. Noted more for his consistency than outright pace, Fittipaldi took two career wins (the first being in 1999), but also suffered separate leg-breaking accidents during his tenure in this series.
Fittipaldi left the CART championship (as it became known) at the end of 2002, and continues to race in a host of motorsport categories.
Click here for Christian Fittipaldi’s complete F1 results.
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