Former Grand Prix driver Antônio Pizzonia is turning 31 today!
The Brazilian contested a total of 20 Grands Prix between 2003-5 with Jaguar and Williams, scoring eight championship points with four seventh-placed finishes.
Born in the Amazonian city of Manaus, Pizzonia – nicknamed ‘Jungle Boy’ – started racing at the age of ten and was quickly winning in karts. By the age of fifteen, he’d won the Brazilian national title.
The next step was a switch to the United States, where Antônio competed in the Barber Dodge series, before moving to Britain to enter the Formula Vauxhall Junior championship. He won the championship in 1998, graduated to Formula Renault in 1999 and won the title as well.
His reward was a test with Williams, before he moved to the British Formula 3 championship, winning the title, with another F1 test (with Benetton) on offer.
Williams took the initiative to lock him into a long-term deal from 2001 onwards, and he was signed as a test driver while also racing for the Petrobras Junior squad in Formula 3000.
His F1 debut finally came in 2003 with Jaguar Racing, and partnered with Mark Webber, it was perhaps little surprise that Antônio found himself completely outclassed, and he was dropped after the British Grand Prix.
He returned to Williams as a test driver in 2004, and stood in for the injured Ralf Schumacher in the latter half of the championship.
Overlooked for a full-time race seat in 2005 (Williams chose Nick Heidfeld instead), Pizzonia stayed on in the test line-up, before once again coming on as a ‘super sub’ in the last five races of the season.
Again, he was overlooked for a full-time race seat, and he quietly disappeared from F1. A talent wasted.