Chile’s one and only F1 driver, Eliseo Salazar, will make his inaugural appearance as the drivers’ representative on the FIA Stewards’ panel at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Perhaps his greatest claim to F1 fame is being punched and kicked by Nelson Piquet at the 1982 German Grand Prix, Salazar was virtually unknown when he first ventured to Europe in 1979 to compete in the Vandervell Formula 3 championship.
Despite not having the best equipment as his disposal, his performances were impressive, and he joined the Aurora F1 championship in 1980. Piloting a RAM Williams FW07, he won three races and finished runner-up to team-mate Emilio de Villota.
His World Championship debut came the following year with the March team, but he qualified once in just six outings before switching camps to Ensign. He drove excellently for the little team, claiming a fine sixth at Zandvoort.
For 1982, he joined the ATS team, but the year was largely a disappointment, despite claiming two more points with a fifth place, although it was at the San Marino Grand Prix, in which just 14 cars started.
Very much in the shadow of team-mate Manfred Winkelhock, his one highlight (and lowlight!) came when he collided with race-leader Nelson Piquet at Hockenheim when he was being lapped. The Brazilian was furious, launching in a series of karate-style kicks and punches against Salazar (the two were actually friends!), although it would later emerge that Piquet’s BMW engine was on the verge of blowing up anyway. Given that the failure would have been humiliating on BMW’s home soil, it was something of a face-saver for Piqiet…
After F1, he raced in sports cars for many years before returning to open-wheel competition in the ChampCar Series, where he proved particularly quick on oval circuits.
A bad accident in 2002 saw him leave the series, and he turned to the American Le Mans Series. More recently, he has competed in the Dakar Rally.
One trusts that Eliseo won’t have to officiate on any of the kind of antics he was victim to thirty years ago!
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