Today we also celebrate the birthday of one of F1’s lesser-known drivers, Fabrizio Barbazza, who turns 49 years old!
Blessed with a killer mullet haircut that would be more suited to a 1980s rocker, Barbazza was perhaps always destined for motorsport, having been born at no less a place than Monza.
He formed his early reputation as a fast – but wild! – driver in the Italian Formula 3 scene, finishing third in the series in 1985.
Faced with limited opportunities to move up the motorsport ladder in Europe, he took the unusual step of crossing the Atlantic to compete in the newly-formed American Racing Series in 1986, which he won on debut.
By the following year, Fabrizio had graduated to CART, taking over a vacancy in the Frank Arciero team, and he took an incredible third-placed finish at the Indianapolis 500, cementing ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours with twelfth place in the season-ending standings.
But it was a fruitless task trying to qualify the off-the-pace car, and he returned to CART before joining F1 again in 1993, this time with Minardi. The Italian drove well for the underfinanced team, picking up two sixth places at San Marino and Donington before his funds ran dry mid-season.
Fabrizio returned to the United States once again, picking up a drive in the IMSA championship and finishing eighth in the Dayton 24 Hours.
But his racing career would come to a sudden end when he was involved in a huge multi-car accident at Road Atlanta, which saw him T-boned by another driver and in hospital with critical injuries. Although it took over a year, he thankfully made a complete recovery but never got back in the cockpit.
Instead, he set up a go-kart circuit at his birthplace in Monza and started to research safer crash barrier designs in the hope that he could prevent the type of accidents that led to his career-ending injuries.
Later on, Fabrizio relocated to Cuba and set up a successful fishing resort on the country’s north, occasionally dabbling in a little bit of social karting.
[Images via DayLife, F1 Corradi, F1 Nostalgia, F1 Rejects, MaxiF1]