Former Grand Prix driver Ricardo Zunino – whose F1 career epitomises the ‘right time, right place’ cliché if we ever saw it – today celebrates his 63rd birthday!
His feeder series results had been nothing to write home about, despite the competitiveness of his machinery in Formula 2, but a switch to the Aurora F1 series in 1979 proved to be a smart move: he won a race and claimed five further top-six finishes.
His move into top-flight Formula 1 takes some believing. He just happened to be in the Montreal pit lane when Niki Lauda decided to quit Brabham in the middle of practice, and team boss Bernie Ecclestone offered him the gig for the final two races of the year.
This extended into the 1980 championship, but Zunino was well short of the standards of team-mate Nelson Piquet – who went on to win the championship crown – and he was forced out mid-year.
He had one more outing with Brabham at the non-championship round in South Africa in 1981, and then took a seat at Tyrrell for two races before making way for one Michele Alboreto…
His motorsport career was effectively curtailed at the that point, and he ridiculously turned down an offer to remain in F1 with Mo Nunn’s Ensign team – his deeming the car uncompetitive was perhaps more than a little hypocritical…
An Argentine racer in the early 1980s (the height of the Falklands tensions) was hardly an ideal candidate for drivers in other championships, and so he headed back home.
Years later, he emerged again, although this time in the world of hospitality. He now runs a tourism and hotel complex at the foot od the Andes in his homeland.
[Images via F1 Rejects]