Remembering Michele: The last Italian to win for Ferrari
It seems almost surreal to consider that former Grand Prix winner Michele Alboreto was killed ten years ago today.
One of the smoothest and most stylish drivers of his era, Alboreto enjoyed a swift rise to Formula 1 to enjoy a career that would span fourteen seasons, almost 200 Grands Prix starts and five race wins.
A runner-up in the 1979 Italian Formula 3 championship, he won the European title the following year after a year-long stoush with Thierry Boutsen. Formula 2 beckoned and he joined Minardi’s effort in 1981, winning the season finale at Misano.
But in the same year, he’d already made his F1 debut with Tyrrell at the San Marino Grand Prix, impressing team boss Ken Tyrrell so much that he was offered a three-year deal on the spot.
Pitted against the turbo-powered rivals, Michele was at his most competitive in the normally-aspirated Tyrrell on the slower street circuits, taking brilliant wins at Las Vegas (1982) and Detroit (1983) over the next two seasons.
But the team’s overall lack of competitiveness was no small reason why he jumped at the opportunity to join Ferrari for 1984 when it came knocking, and he remained there until the end of 1988.
He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1984, but it was a high point in a season plagued by poor reliability. The following year was the high point of his career, he won twice more and remained in the title hunt against Alain Prost until mechanical gremlins again conspired to rob him of all hope.
Finding himself steadily cast into the shadows when Gerhard Berger arrived at the team in 1987, Michele opted out of Ferrari’s increasingly political environment and returned to Tyrrell in 1989.
But it was a brief return, and despite a splendid podium at Mexico he was forced out shortly after courtesy of a sponsorship clash, and this was the beginning of a very long and steady decline in his F1 fortunes.
He spent the reason of the season toiling with Larrousse before heading to the uncompetitive Footwork team in 1990, which was to be even worse when it was saddled with Porsche engines the following year.
A more competitive partnership with Mugen-Honda engines saw him achieve some more respectable results with Footwork in 1992, but his career nearly fell to pieces when he joined the BMS Scuderia Italia Lola Ferrari team and floundered in the appalling car, failing to qualify five times.
A swansong season with Minardi followed – he took his last points finish at Monaco – and he ventured off to touring cars and later sports cars, winning the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours.
His death – brought about by a tyre failure when testing his Audi LMS challenger at the Lausitzring – rocked the motorsport community, and he remains sorely missed by everyone who has watched his incredible talent behind the wheel.