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Elio De Angelis

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Elio De Angelis.jpg
Elio de Angelis
Nationality: 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian
Years: 1979 - 1986
Team(s): Shadow, Lotus, Brabham
Races: 109
Championships: 0
Wins: 2
Podiums: 9
Poles: 3
Fastest laps: 0
First race: 1979 Argentine Grand Prix
First win: 1982 Austrian Grand Prix
Last win: 1985 San Marino Grand Prix
Last race: 1986 Monaco Grand Prix

Elio de Angelis (born 26 March 1958 in Rome, Italy; died 15 May 1986) was a Formula One driver who participated during seasons 1979 to 1986. He raced for teams Shadow, Lotus Cars and Brabham. He was killed during practices for the Le Castellet circuit in 1986. He is sometimes referred to as Formula One's "last gentleman player," and although he was probably not the most talented driver ever, he was certainly among the most popular.

Having driven for Shadow in his debut season in 1979, he switched to Lotus Cars in 1980 and - at the age of 20 - nearly became the youngest Grand Prix winner of all time when he finished a tantalising second at the 1980 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

He left Lotus at the end of the 1985 season when it became clear the team's efforts were being focused on his prodigiously-talented team-mate Ayrton Senna. (De Angelis's replacement in the team was Johnny Dumfries, who owed his place almost entirely to the facts that he would accept being subordinate to Senna, Senna would not tolerate the much more competitive Derek Warwick as a co-driver, and that Dumfries came from a rich English family; Dumfries lasted only one season in Formula One before himself being replaced by Honda-backed Satoru Nakajima.) De Angelis's drive for 1986 was with Brabham - another famous name now in decline - as a replacement for twice World Champion Nelson Piquet (Piquet had left for the Williams team because Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone would not match his salary demands).

The 1986 Brabham-BMW was a radically-designed car, with a very low ride height. However, it was not a very good one, and it quickly became clear that 1986 would not be the year the team recaptured its glory days of the early 1980s. However, De Angelis pushed his hardest to help develop the car and it was while testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France that he crashed at high speed and caught fire. The impact did not kill him, but, tragically, he could not get out of the car and the lack of marshalls - or indeed anyone who could have assisted - at the circuit meant he died of asphyxiation from the smoke.

De Angelis was the last driver to die in an F1 car until Roland Ratzenberger at Imola eight years later. His place in the Brabham team was taken, ironically, by Derek Warwick - allegedly because Warwick was the only unemployed F1 driver who did not contact Ecclestone immediately afterwards asking about the drive.

As well as his considerable skill as a driver, De Angelis was also concert-standard pianist who famously once kept the drivers entertained for an entire evening in the midst of the mid-80s driver's strike.

To this day De Angelis holds the following records:

  • Most Consecutive 5th Place Finishes (3) – set at 1985 Great Britain
  • Most 4th Place Qualifications, Finishes, and Fastest Laps (2) – set at 1985 Portugal
  • Most 12th Place Qualifications, Finishes, and Fastest Laps (1) – set at 1979 Great Britain,
  • Most 5th Place Finishes (17) – set at 1985 Europe
  • Most 5th Place Finishes in a Season (6) – set at 1985 Europe