De Cesaris’ 208-race career was the longest of any driver not to have won a single race. He is also the record-holder for the most race retirements of any driver: 137 in total!
A former World Champion in karting, de Cesaris made his Grand Prix debut at the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix for Alfa Romeo, at the same time that he was signed with Ron Dennis’ Project Four organisation in Formula 2.
With a reputation for speed, he joined Dennis’ McLaren F1 team in 1981, and cemented his reputation as a quick – but wild! – driver. Countless wrecked chassis’ and a single championship point all season earned him the nickname ‘De Crasheris’ in the British press, and it was only his close tie-in with Marlboro that means he stayed in F1 beyond that year.
So he was back at Alfa Romeo in 1982, and he redeemed himself somewhat with a surprise pole at Long Beach, only to undo his hard work when he lost the lead to Niki Lauda (missing a gear while waving his fist at a backmarker who got in his way, no less!) and then slapped the wall trying to keep up with the Austrian.
And the rest of his career followed this pattern. In 1983, he brilliantly led the Belgian Grand Prix until he retired with a mechanical failure.
Thereafter, his career spiralled downwards. Stints with Ligier (1984-5), Minardi (1986), Brabham (1987), Rial (1988) and Dallara (1989-90) brought little in the way of results other than plenty more wrecked cars and an ever-lengthening list of drivers criticising him for his appalling manners while being lapped.
Yet, just when it looked like his F1 career was finally finished, he was called up by the Jordan team as it made its F1 debut in 1991, and he completely turned things around with some mature, steady performances. A fine fourth at Canada was followed by brilliantly running in second place at Belgium, where he was closing on race-leader Senna until his Ford engine tightened and went pop.
With Tyrrell in 1992, he again impressed with some magnificent drives in the little-funded and developed car, but the following year’s car was a pig and he was unable to show much other than making up the numbers.
With no drives on the cards for 1994, it looked as though the sun had finally set on his F1 career. But he returned to Jordan for two races (replacing the suspended Eddie Irvine) and then moved to Sauber as the substitute for the injured Karl Wendlinger. Now much more mature in the cockpit, the curtain was finally brought down on a 15-year career with a pair of second places in 1983 as his best race finishes.
After leaving F1, Andrea turned to making a tidy fortune as a currency trader and later achieved great success in – of all sports – windsurfing.
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