Jean-Denis Délétraz – the driver widely regarded as one of the worst to have ever graced Formula 1 – is turning 48 today.
The Swiss was one of many drivers in the mid-1990s blessed with considerably more backing than talent, and his credentials were certainly questionable when a desperate Larrousse signed him to make his debut at the team’s final race, the 1994 Australian Grand Prix.
In the race, he was “staggeringly slow” according to AUTOSPORT, to the point that he was lapped by leaders Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill on the tenth lap of the race. A pit-lane speeding penalty later and with 57 laps under his belt, Délétraz retired the car with a gearbox problem, having been lapped ten times!
He returned to the grid for two more appearances in 1995, this time dangling his sponsorship package under the nose of the equally desperate Pacific team, which signed him up for the last five races of the season.
At the Portuguese Grand Prix, he qualified bog last, some twelve seconds adrift of the fastest time clocked by pole-sitter David Coulthard – in fact, his time would have earned him 22nd on the grid for the supporting Formula 3000 race!
Described by veteran F1 journalist as displaying a “very special interpretation of Grand Prix driving”, Délétraz was 40 seconds adrift after just three racing laps, and a lap behind after the seventh lap.He retired after just 14 laps when cramp set in.
“He was defaulted on payment and on ability alone we are not prepared to keep him,” was the crisp explanation of team boss Keith Wiggins when he was asked about the Swiss driver’s absence. Says it all, really.
Yet despite his appalling form in Formula 1, Délétraz has redeemed himself with some sterling performances in the field of sports car racing.
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