Alessandro Nannini

Today we wish former Grand Prix driver Alessandro Nannini a happy 53rd birthday!

‘Sandro’, as he was affectionately known, was born in the Italian town of Siena and into a very talented family: his father was a widely respected and talented baker, and his sister would go on to become one of the country’s highest-profile rock singers. For Sandro, it was all about motorsport.

His first forays into motorsport came in the 1970s in rallying, before he switched to open-wheeled competition and drove for Minardi in the 1982 Formula 2 championship.

Alessandro Nannini, 1986 Austrian GPBy 1986, he had made his F1 debut with Minardi, and despite being a clear number-two to his mercurial team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, it was Sandro who had the more senior compatriot’s measure.

A further year with the Faenza team followed before he was appointed at Benetton in 1988, as team-mate to Thierry Boutsen.

It was here that the chain-smoking racer started to blossom, picking up regular points finishes and was a solid contender in 1989, peaking with victory at that year’s infamous victory at the Japanese Grand Prix after Ayrton Senna was disqualified for an illegal push-start by the marshals.

Alessandro Nannini, 1990 Hungarian GPIn 1990, his stock continued to rise, and he might have won the Hungarian Grand Prix but for being rammed off-track by Senna (pictured left).

But tragedy would strike just a few weeks later, when he was involved in a helicopter crash that severed his right hand at the forearm. Incredibly, the limb was reattached with microsurgery, but his F1 days were over.

Having fully recovered, Sandro was a regular competitor with Alfa Romeo between 1992-6 in the Italian Touring car Championship, winning races aplenty and proving that he had lost none of his touch and finesse behind the wheel.

Cruelly, it was a blossoming F1 career cut short.

[Images via F1 Nostalgia, Flickr, LAT,, MMM Sport, Sutton Images, The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.