Two former F1 drivers will be celebrating their birthdays today, with Tommy Byrne turning 53 and Andrea Chiesa turning 47.
Born in the Irish town of Drogheda, Byrne’s rise to Formula 1 was among the most rapid of any driver to have graced its stage.
Barely midway through his first season of Formula 3 racing, Byrne took up the opportunity to join the little Theodore team in 1982. But the car didn’t enjoy the competitiveness he had hoped for, and he sank without trace almost as quickly, never to be given another chance at the top flight.
With limited opportunities left in Europe, Byrne headed Stateside and ploughed out a respectable career in the Indy open-wheeler scene. He now works as a race driver instructor, and earned huge acclaim for his autobiography Crashed & Byrned (reviewed here).
Born in Italy and racing under the Swiss flag, Andrea Chiesa made his open-wheeler debut in the Italian F3 championship in 1986, but he was largely unable to show his promise courtesy of an uncompetitive VW engine.
The 1987 season was better and he won three of the opening four races, but his form faded and he was pipped to the championship title.
A move up to Formula 3000 did little to improve his fortunes – he took just a single championship point – but the following year showed more promise, finishing sixth overall and winning at Enna.
Two more seasons followed in the championship, and it was a surprise when he was announced part of the Fondmetal’s expanded two-car line-up for the 1992 Formula 1 championship season, particularly on the back of his fourth and final F3000 season being particularly off-song.
Out of his depth and doubtlessly given less than top-shelf support in comparison to his number-one team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, Chiesa’s record of three starts, three DNFs and seven DNQs pretty much says it all.
Chiesa has enjoyed rather more success outside of F1, and he currently races in the Italian Superstars touring car championship.
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