Andrea de Cesaris
|Andrea de Cesaris|
|Years||1980 - 1994|
|Team(s)||Alfa Romeo, McLaren, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Scuderia Italia, Jordan, Tyrrell, Sauber|
|Races||214 (208 starts)|
|First race||1980 Canadian Grand Prix|
|Last race||1994 European Grand Prix|
Andrea de Cesaris (born May 31 1959) is an Italian former race car driver. He holds two distinctions in Formula One: the longest career without a race victory (208 grand prix starts), and also his unofficial title of 'Andrea de Crasheris', owing to a string of accidents early in his career. Though this reputation remained, he matured into a fast and reliable driver, though rarely had the machinery to match his speed.
In 2005 and 2006 he competed in the Grand Prix Masters formula for retired F1 drivers.
- 1 Driving career
- 2 Legacy
- 3 Retirement
- 4 Racing revival
- 5 Complete World Championship Formula One Results
De Cesaris was born in Rome on May 31 1959. A multiple karting champion, he graduated to Formula 3 in Britain, winning numerous events before his tendency to make careless mistakes cost him dearly, and he finished 2nd in the championship to Chico Serra. A wheel banging incident with Nigel Mansell broke the Briton's neck, and did little to improve Andrea's wild reputation. From Formula 3, he graduated to Formula 2 with future McLaren boss Ron Dennis' Project 4 team.
Alfa Romeo (1980)
- Related article: Alfa Romeo in Formula One
In 1980, de Cesaris was then picked up by Alfa Romeo for the final events of the 1980 World Championship, replacing Vittorio Brambilla who had, in turn, replaced Patrick Depailler when he was killed testing at Hockenheim. At just 21 years old, his first race in Canada ended after eight laps because of engine failure. His second race in the United States was a sign of things to come. He crashed on lap two.
- Related article: McLaren
However, the pair of races was the start of a 14-year Formula One career, thanks in large part to family connections with the Marlboro cigarette brand. Having ready access to what, for many years, was Formula One's most lavish paymaster helped sustain the Italian's career through some depressing troughs. Only during his time with Ligier and Brabham was Andrea's helmet free from the bright red Marlboro chevron.
His reputation within the sport was cemented in his early years. Driving for McLaren in 1981, the paddock rumour of the time was he was causing so much damage to his cars that his mechanics refused to repair them. In 14 races he crashed or spun off six times, a single point at Imola was not enough to convince the resurgent McLaren team to keep him on. It was at this point that the nickname "Andrea de Crasheris" was coined. De Cesaris touched wheels with the Alfa Romeo of Mario Andretti at the start of the 1981 Monaco Grand Prix. Both cars retired.
In July 1981 de Cesaris and Henry Pescarolo finished second to the team of Riccardo Patrese and Michele Alboreto in a 6-hour endurance race at Watkins Glen, New York. Both teams drove Lancia cars with de Cesaris and Pescarolo finishing two laps behind.
Alfa Romeo (1982-1983)
- Related article: Alfa Romeo in Formula One
Moving back to Alfa Romeo in 1982, de Cesaris showed to be more capable than his latest result would have suggested. He became the youngest man ever at that point to take pole position, at the Long Beach Grand Prix. De Cesaris was also only the second Alfa Romeo driver to capture a pole since 1952. But his immaturity was also on display. Lapping a slower car, de Cesaris waved his fist wildly, only to miss a gear and let Niki Lauda get past. He crashed out later on the fifth of twelve turns near the midway point of the race. De Cesaris was not injured but flames emanated from the rear of his Alfa Romeo as he climbed out of its battered cockpit.
From this point onwards, de Cesaris was nearly always seen by most in the paddock as prone to occasional brilliance but more often than not, erratic behaviour. 1982 saw a podium finish at Monte Carlo and another point in Canada. At the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix Didier Pironi retired on the final lap with electrical trouble on his Ferrari. De Cesaris ran out of gas at the same point, allowing Riccardo Patrese to win his first Formula 1 race in 71 starts.
de Cesaris scored his first points of the season with a 2nd place finish at Hockenheim in the 1983 German Grand Prix. He was driving an Alfa Romeo with a turbo engine. The 2nd was his best-ever result to this point in a Formula One race.
In October 1983 de Cesaris finished 2nd to Riccardo Patrese in the 1983 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. He was 9.319 seconds behind. 1983 showed just how unfair his reputation was. De Cesaris rarely produced a mediocre performance. He came close to winning at Spa-Francorchamps, after leading for much of the race.
- Related article: Ligier
The momentum wasn't sustained in 1984 when he moved to Ligier, despite its promising Renault turbo engines. Three points were little reward for a season of hard charging.
1985 was even worse. A strong fourth place at Monaco showed early promise but the season turned into a dismaying one. At the Austrian Grand Prix de Cesaris suffered a massive crash after 13 laps. He left the track on an ultra-fast left hander. On a corner without tyre walls or armco-barriers, Andrea met a sloping grass bank, dug in, and tumbled end over end. He was lucky to emerge from the wreck covered in splattered mud. Still stiff and sore, he was off-form in the next race in Holland. Hot-headed team boss Guy Ligier lost patience and de Cesaris was fired. A classic Ligier quote from this time, "I can no longer afford the services of this young man".
- Related article: Minardi
Trying to rebuild his career, in 1986 de Cesaris paid to drive for Italian minnows Minardi. In an overweight, slow and unreliable car, Andrea did little to improve a fast growing reputation as a blocker when being lapped. Worse still, he was more often than not outpaced by up and coming countryman Alessandro Nannini. For the first time in his career, de Cesaris went an entire season without scoring a point.
- Related article: Brabham
At the time, the reason Brabham-BMW took on de Cesaris was said to extend into seven figures, a massive amount of sponsorship for a driver to bring to a team at the time. But it was with the Bernie Ecclestone-owned team that Andrea began to show his raw speed. A podium in Belgium was a welcome result after so long out of the points. At the 1987 Belgian Grand Prix, at Spa, Belgium, de Cesaris placed third after Alain Prost and Stefan Johansson. He wouldn't finish another race that season. He usually qualified well, but the super-powerful BMW turbo would more often than not end its races by exploding in flames, making a consistent points haul impossible.
- Related article: Rial
For 1988 Brabham pulled out of Formula One and de Cesaris was again looking for a new home. He found it at the new Rial team, run by volatile German Gunter Schmid. The car was extremely slimline, de Cesaris looking awfully exposed. But, with Cosworth power and brave driving, Andrea often qualified well, and took an outstanding fourth place in the United States East Grand Prix in Detroit.
For 1989, de Cesaris moved to a team where he looked most at home: the red and white Marlboro-sponsored Dallara squad. Early results were again promising. A Monaco expert, Andrea was on course for a podium position in Monte Carlo, before being taken out by triple world champion Nelson Piquet at the Lowes Hairpin. De Cesaris lost his cool in a massive way. As the cars were locked together, he screamed and waved wildly, before berating Piquet's Lotus team upon returning to the pits. Two races later it was Andrea's turn to play the villain. After an early delay he was being lapped by Dallara team-mate Alex Caffi when he ran his fellow Italian into the wall, robbing the team of another podium. He made amends at the next race in Canada, finishing third behind Williams drivers Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese in a rain-soaked race. It would be the last time de Cesaris stood on the Formula One podium.
Dallara's promise wasn't repeated in 1990. With a number of teams now using either Ford or Judd customer V8s, the midfield had become much tighter. Reliability was a problem, and he again failed to score a point all season, even failing to qualify for the German Grand Prix.
- Related article: Jordan Grand Prix
It seemed after a decade of erratic endeavour that the writing was finally on the wall for Andrea de Cesaris. Dumped for JJ Lehto at Dallara, he was signed by Eddie Jordan for his team's first season in Formula One. Always a talent spotter, Jordan had run de Cesaris in Formula 3, but was typically direct in his reason for signing the Italian: experience and Marlboro money.
The Jordan 191 was one of the most striking and attractive cars seen in Formula One. Its beauty was complimented by its mechanical simplicity and speed. Sadly at the season's first race in Phoenix de Cesaris selected the wrong gear in the short pre-qualifying session, buzzed the engine and was out.
But that result was no indication of what was to come. De Cesaris was again strong at Monaco, forcing his way past the Benetton of Roberto Moreno and was running in the points when the Jordan's throttle cable snapped.
In the next race in Canada he delivered finishing a strong fourth. De Cesaris then rebuffed anyone who thought this was a fluke by repeating the result next time out in Mexico. The following race in France he finished sixth. Suspension failure in Great Britain led to a massive crash but the Italian bounced back to take qualify seventh and finish fifth in Germany.
His speed had never been in doubt, but de Cesaris was now driving with his head much more than his heart, and a restraint that had been missing during much of his first ten years in Formula One. A fast and friendly car helped, but Andrea's maturity behind the wheel was now in no doubt.
His day of days came during the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Franchorchamps. The Belgian circuit is widely recognised as the greatest test of driver skill in modern racing. It was a place de Cesaris has always excelled. Despite the pressure of being outqualified by debutant team-mate Michael Schumacher de Cesaris was on a mission all weekend. While Schumacher's inexperience resulted in a burned out clutch on lap one, de Cesaris moved through the field to take second position. He was catching Ayrton Senna for victory when his car's Ford HB V8 blew. A communication problem between Ford and the Jordan team meant the oil tank in the car was too small to service a new type of piston ring which used more lubricant. Even so, the point was made: de Cesaris had finally arrived.
- Related article: Tyrrell Racing
Despite Eddie Jordan's desire to keep de Cesaris for the 1992 season, financial realities meant it wasn't possible. Jordan had built up significant debts in his debut season. He was able to secure sponsorship from Barclay Cigarettes, but the brand was in direct conflict with Andrea's Marlboro backing. Something had to give, and the Italian left the team where he'd driven his strongest season yet.
Ken Tyrrell was quick to snap up Andrea and his sponsorship and his faith was quickly repaid when de Cesaris took a fifth in the second race of the season in Mexico. The drive was spectacular. After being caught up in early spin, he battled through the field, even slip-streaming past the factory Ferrari of Jean Alesi.
The Ilmor V-10 powered Tyrrell 020 was a handy machine, and de Cesaris was in the points three more times during the season culminating in an impressive fourth place in the Japanese Grand Prix.
1993 was very different. The Ilmor engine had been replaced with free Yamaha V10s which changed the dynamics and reliability of the car. The 020 was by then very old and was replaced mid-season by the 021. This car featured active suspension was not a success. For the third time in his career, de Cesaris failed to score a point and left Tyrrell at the end of the season.
Jordan and Sauber (1994)
In 1994, for the first time since 1980, de Cesaris started the season without a Formula One drive. Talks with several small teams came to nothing and as the circus left for Brazil, Andrea was on the sidelines. But it was an event during the Brazilian Grand Prix that revived his career. Irishman Eddie Irvine was blamed for starting a massive accident which saw Jos Verstappen barrel roll over the top of Martin Brundle. On appeal, Irvine was banned for three races. At the Pacific Grand Prix, Aguri Suzuki drove Irvine's vacated Jordan. But for the next race, the San Marino Grand Prix, Eddie Jordan brought de Cesaris back to the team where he'd earned his best results back three seasons earlier.
The return didn't start well when de Cesaris wrote off a chassis during testing. He crashed again during the tragic event at Imola due to poor fitness having not driven a race distance in six months.
But, ever the Monaco specialist, he bounced back in Monte Carlo. In a mature drive, de Cesaris stayed away from trouble and away from the barriers to take a superb fourth place. Irvine returned for the next race but Sauber had noticed the Italian's form, and signed him to replace the injured Karl Wendlinger in the Mercedes-powered machines.
Andrea's first race for Sauber was his 200th Grand Prix in Canada. Although he retired after 24 laps, he was again in the points at the next event, the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. However the emergency changes to technical regulations made the Sauber a handful to drive.
The career of Andrea de Cesaris then ended much as it began, when he retired with trottle problems during his last race, the 1994 European Grand Prix. After this, Sauber kept his promise to return the car to Karl Wendlinger if he was fit enough. In the end he wasn't, but de Cesaris was unreachable on holiday, so JJ Lehto replaced him for the final two Grands Prix.
It is perhaps unfair that de Cesaris never got the break his talent deserved, and that his reputation should be tarnished by his early misadventures. His later years demonstrated that, in a quick and reliable car, he could be relied upon to bring home decent results.
He participated in 214 grands prix, debuting on September 28, 1980. He achieved 5 podiums, one pole position, and scored a total of 59 championship points, but remains the driver with the most GP starts (208) to his name without a win.
Since retiring from motor-racing, de Cesaris has become a successful currency broker in Monte Carlo. It has been reported that he spends six months of the year in this occupation, the other on windsurfing around the world. In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, de Cesaris gave a substantial donation to a sail manufacturer whose factory in Sri Lanka had been destroyed in the disaster.
Long absent from the Formula One paddock, Andrea appeared at the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, and was welcomed back with a warm hug from former Brabham team boss and Formula One czar Bernie Ecclestone. A few months later it was announced de Cesaris would race in the new Grand Prix Masters series for retired Formula One drivers. While some drivers had spend their retirement years accumulating kilos, Andrea is still in top physical condition. And in October he proved he'd lost none of his speed, setting fastest time in the first Grand Prix Masters test at the Silverstone South circuit in England.Autosport magazine Grand Prix editor Mark Hughes predicted that de Cesaris would be one of the strongest drivers in the Masters field. In the first race at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa, de Cesaris qualified well and raced to fourth, after a fierce battle with Briton Derek Warwick.
Complete World Championship Formula One Results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position / Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|Alfa Romeo Formula One|
|Alfa Romeo SpA (1950-1951): 158, 159, 159A, 159B | Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio
Alfa Romeo engine: Brabham BT45/BT45B/BT45C | Brabham BT46/BT46B | Brabham BT48 | McLaren M7D | McLaren M14D | Cooper T53