Formula One
Andrea de Cesaris: Ridiculous/Sublime

Many ex-Formula 1 drivers drop down to other types of racing once the Grand Prix teams stop calling. There's too much money involved now for many drivers to retire from motorsport at the peak of their powers, and results vary. Some shine in a way they never got the chance to in F1 (for example Alex Yoong in Formula A, Gabriele Tarquini in the BTCC, Roberto Moreno in CART), others maybe adding a little tarnish to their reputations (such as Derek Warwick, often trounced by less trumpeted rivals in BTCC). Even the likes of double-world champion Mika Hakkinen can be found in the DTM now, albeit largely to avert boredom, and probably handsomely remunerated. But the number of well-funded series beyond F1 is now possibly bigger than ever, and a scan through the results section in Autosport is likely to turn up a crop of names still driving, their F1 careers having ended without much decoration over a decade before.

However, one name was, until recently, notably absent. Andrea de Cesaris was a man who, for 15 years, seemed to take anything that came his way in Formula 1, before slipping away two races from the end of the 1994 season. Until the recent Grand Prix Masters series, de Cesaris just stopped driving. Of course, being well connected to Marlboro Italia eased things for the Roman, which probably makes guest drives in the IMSA or GTs that bit easier to resist. Of course, de Cesaris is remembered for two reasons: the man with the most Grand Prix without a win (208 starts without a victory), and for the nickname 'De Crasheris'.

It's therefore easy to imagine him as hopeless and accident-prone. To be honest, de Cesaris was a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure, capable of dragging a midfield car up with the front-runners one race, and wiping it out the next in some banal moment of brain-fade the next. But you don't get hired by a dozen F1 teams without some sort of talent, well-heeled or not.

To say Andrea's career was a roller-coaster would be a bit of an understatement. There were times he was a genuine front-runner, and there were others when he was an especially awkward backmarker. There were times he was hired to lead a team, and others when his money all but forced some struggling outfit to take him on. There were unfancied team-mates who blew him away, and fancied ones he tore apart.

His rise to Formula 1 was very quick in the late 1970s, including a World Karting Championship, runner-up in the highly respected British Formula 3 series in 1979, and then 5th overall in the 1980 Formula 2 championship. He was known as fast but wild, but nevertheless took up his place on the grid for the last two rounds of the 1980 Formula 1 season.


de Cesaris' raw speed impressed in the Alfa 179Alfa Romeo had tentatively returned to Formula 1 midway through 1979, with Vittorio Brambilla driving the 'boxer' 177. This was replaced by the V12-powered 179, with Bruno Giacomelli taking over the driving. He was joined by the swift Patrick Depallier for 1980. However, the charismatic Frenchman was killed in testing, and Brambilla briefly rejoined. Alfa were sponsored by Marlboro Italia, and they arranged for de Cesaris to take over the drive for the North American rounds. The Alfa had proven fast, but unreliable, with a brace of 5ths for Giacomelli being all they had to show for their efforts thus far. At Montreal, Giacomelli placed 4th on the grid, with Andrea starting his debut from an impressive 8th. He showed a fair turn of speed before the engine failed 8 laps in. The final round took place at Watkins Glen, with Giacomelli taking pole, and looking set for his first win before the electrics failed just after halfway. Andrea, meanwhile, started from an impressive 10th, but crashed off on the third lap.

Despite the brief race performances, de Cesaris had impressed, putting the car in the top 10 at two tracks he hadn't seen before. However, Alfa had already signed Mario Andretti to partner Giacomelli in 1981, and he hadn't shown quite enough to impress the big teams. Thankfully, his Project Four boss, Ron Dennis, had purchased the flat-lining McLaren F1 team from Teddy Mayer, and planned to take it back to the top. Impressed by the Italian's speed, and believing more of his tutelage could iron out the rough spots (not to mention that he was keen to hold on to Marlboro's money), he signed the Italian to partner John Watson in 1981.

Andrea at the non-Championship 1981 South African  Grand Prix. Dennis had John Barnard at work on the groundbreaking space-age MP4, but this wouldn't be ready until the third round, and even then it'd be a while before both drivers could be kitted out. Therefore, the season was started in the modified M29F, which had managed only a fistful of placings the previous year. It was little surprise de Cesaris lined up no better than 22nd (a place ahead of Watson) for his McLaren debut at Long Beach. However, putting the thing in the wall on the first lap hardly impressed. In Brazil, he was outqualified and out-raced by the Ulsterman, only lasting 9 laps before the electrics cut.

Watson debuted the MP4 in Buenos Aires, while Andrea dragged the old car round to 11th, his first GP finish. Then in Imola he started 14th, and endured through to 6th for his first point (and McLaren's first of the season), placing the M29F four places ahead of Watson's MP4. So far so good, even if a lack of mechanical sympathy saw him destroy the car's gearbox at Zolder. For his F1 Monaco debut he was given an MP4, staring 11th (just one place behind Watson), only to crash into Andretti on the opening lap. This started a run of catastrophic races - a crash in Spain, a pitstop in France for accident damage having started 5th, another crash at Silverstone (with Villeneuve and Jones) having qualified 6th (Watson went on to win), then spinning out in Germany. He kept his nose clean in Austria to come home 8th, but the carbon fibre and other materials meant the MP4 was an expensive car, and Dennis was losing patience. A series of practice accidents at Zandvoort meant de Cesaris didn't even start, and the writing was on the wall. His fate was sealed when a last-lap crash at Monza cost the team a point, with a spin in Canada and a wilting 12th in Vegas doing little to help his reputation.


The win was tantalisingly close at Monaco in 1982However, Andretti had left Alfa after a frustrating year, and Marlboro saw to it that de Cesaris was the man to take his seat. The opening race, in the 179D, was undistinguished, but he put the new 182 20th on the grid in Brazil, only for the undertray to work loose. Then he astonishingly took pole at Long Beach, and led for the first 14 laps. Niki Lauda eventually forced his McLaren through when de Cesaris missed a gear lapping a slower car, and 19 laps later, still holding second, he clipped a wall and retired. The next two races saw a brace of 7th places in qualifying, but no finishes.

Then came Monaco, where another 7th on the grid saw him well-placed late on, running in fourth place with four laps to go. Then the world went mad for eight minutes. Leader Alain Prost smashed his Renault off a wall. New leader Ricardo Patrese beached his Brabham on a kerb. Next man down Didier Pironi's Ferrari then chose to stutter to a halt coming out of the tunnel. Andrea just needed to creep past them and hold on to win, but it wasn't to be, as the tank ran dry without him even passing Pironi. Derek Daly (who crashed), Elio de Angelis (and Nigel Mansell (who passed his team-mate in the hope of scoring a first victory) all briefly led on the track, before Patrese astonishingly got started again, having done a lap more than the Lotuses, and limped home to win, reinstating de Cesaris in third (his first podium).

There were more heroics in Detroit, de Cesaris sharing the front row with Prost, but the transmission gave out after two laps. The tank ran dry due to his hard driving style in Canada, dropping him from 4th to 6th late on. Then came a run of five retirements, including a collision with Daly and team-mate Giacomelli in Austria, and then a disappointing 10th in Dijon after a race beset by mechanical problems. The final two rounds saw another brace of undistinguished races, with 10th and 9th places. Despite only having 5 points on the board, he had clearly taken the mantle of team leader from Giacomelli, and it was de Cesaris who was retained alongside newcomer Mauro Baldi for 1983.

de Cesaris slices into the lead ahead of Prost at Spa in 1983Alfa Romeo built a new V8 turbo for the season, placed in the 183T chassis, notable for its forward-swept front wings. By now Autodelta were concentrating on the engine operation only, with Euro Racing co-ordinating chassis design and the race-to-race running of the outfit. However, things got off to an auspicious start as he missed a weight-check in Brazil, and was excluded from the meeting. He could then mange no better than 19th in qualifying at Long Beach, failing to finish. Paul Ricard suited the car, however, with de Cesaris sharing the fourth row with Baldi. Sadly, turbo trouble limited him to 12th in the race. Imola saw further improvement, with Andrea moving up to 4th before a late engine failure. Points were also a possibility in Monaco, where the gearbox broke, and then at Spa, one of the ultimate drivers' tracks, he started third, beating Tambay off the line and passing Prost, before leading for 18 laps. Prost got by when he made a tyre-stop, but he was gaining again when the engine blew after 25 laps.

More points went begging in Detroit as a turbo blew, which left his score at zero when it could have been in double figures. However, he easily had the upper-hand over Baldi. Another retirement came in Canada, and he took it easy at Silverstone to see the flag, coming home 8th. Then at Hockenheim the Ferraris were the class of the field, but de Cesaris started 3rd behind them, and inherited 2nd when Tambay retired to score his first points of the year. He was back down to Earth in Austria, where he retired from 7th having missed his fuel stop, before engine failure early on in Holland, and then had his only retirement due to an accident all year at Monza, where he span out of 5th on the second lap. The last two races finally saw the 183T running quickly and reliably, taking an unlapped 4th from midfield at Brands Hatch. Then at the season-closing South African Grand Prix he ran 5th before the retirement of Prost and Tambay. Leader Piquet, his championship rival out, eased off, being passed by team-mate Patrese, and then letting de Cesaris through to 2nd place. 15 points left him 8th overall, but Alfa Romeo had signed Patrese and Eddie Cheever instead for 1984.


Testing the Ligier JS23 at Rio before the 1984 seasonSo, despite an excellent season, de Cesaris was looking for a drive. He was still too wild to have much chance for one of the bigger teams, and there were few free anyway. He would eventually land a two-year deal with Ligier, which meant leaving behind Marlboro for now. The French team had suffered in 1983, failing to score a point all year for the first time in their history, but would have a supply of Renault V6 turbo motors for 1984. Alongside de Cesaris was a surprise choice, Frenchman François Hesnault, who would provide little competition throughout the year. After retirement in the opening round, he hung on for 5th at Kyalami, but the car was midfield material, and not too reliable. He dropped out of the points, having used too much boost, a lap from the end in Imola, and then controversially used his influence to start at Dijon despite having not qualified. He had crashed in the only dry session, and the team withdrew Hesnault to allow de Cesaris to start from last, and come through to 10th. He made up for it by starting 7th at Monaco, but picked up debris from the Renaults of Tambay and Derek Warwick colliding ahead of him on the first lap, and dropped out. He wouldn't finish again until taking 10th at Brands Hatch, but would pick up another point through Tyrrell's expulsion promoting him to 6th at Imola. He then finished a valiant 7th in Germany, and after three more retirements, placed the same at the new Nürburgring, and signed off for the year with a quiet race to 12th in Portugal.

That famous Austria '85  tub-smasherHowever, 1985 saw Jacques Laffite return to Les Bleus, moving de Cesaris down in the scheme of things. Laffite came through to 6th in the opening round, while de Cesaris got involved in a tangle with Rene Arnoux that would end his race when a rostrum placing seemed possible. He started 10 places ahead of the Frenchman at Estoril, and soldiered on for 29 laps with diabolical, Pirelli-induced handling in the rain before withdrawing. He then span out at Imola, but the usual feisty showing at Monaco saw him take 4th place, though of a couple of attempts to keep Michele Alboreto's Ferrari behind him were downright obstructive. However, by the British Grand Prix Laffite had put the car on the podium, and Andrea was overdriving while trying to beat his team-mate. He crashed out on the first lap at Hockenheim, and then destroyed another car with a lurid barrel-roll in Austria. Guy Ligier was fed up, having never particularly happy with a rich Italian in his car, and Andrea was on borrowed time. Sure enough, by the time the cars arrived in Italy, Philippe Streiff had taken his seat.

Beating a Zakspeed was the target in '86It looked like that could be that for de Cesaris, with a firm reputation as a crasher, but the little Minardi team were expanding to a two-car team for 1986, and his Marlboro money was enough to secure the second seat alongside hot-shoe Alessandro Nannini. The Minardi had been dreadful in 1985, especially its' fragile, gutless Motori Moderni turbo engine. The thing was so fragile de Cesaris rarely had time to crash it, but his lack of mechanical sympathy hardly helped. Worse still, in the third round, Nannini outqualified him. At Monaco he failed to qualify for the first time in his career, and then at Spa he contrived to run out of fuel 8 laps from the end, desperately hanging on to 10th place. The French Grand Prix was the first of six consecutive races in which Nannini would outqualify him. It wasn't until the penultimate round in Mexico that he would finish, a commendable 8th out of 16 runners, and he would qualify an excellent 11th in Adelaide, only for the fire extinguisher to end his race. All he had really achieved was to heighten his reputation for a lack of mechanical sympathy, and for blocking the leaders when being lapped.


BMW's rocket power didn't help during a tricky 1987 seasonThings looked grim. He had not only had a barren season, but he had been roundly beaten by an inexperienced team-mate in the same car. He dug deep into his sponsors' pocket, and landed a seat with Brabham for 1987. This might sound a little odd, but truth was the team were on the terminal decline that would see them finally drop out altogether in 1992. The move to Pirelli tyres in 1985 had been a failure, and cost them the services of Nelson Piquet while Gordon Murray's low-line BT55 had been a disaster in 1986, scoring just two points - the death of the popular de Angelis in testing adding to the depression. For 1987, they still had powerful four-block BMW turbo, while the BT56 was a back-to-basics conventional design. Patrese was the team leader, with de Cesaris firmly as paying number 2.

It wasn't until the third race that de Cesaris got out from his team-mate's shadow, with Spa seeing a storming drive to 3rd, despite running out of fuel a lap from the end. However, the car once again would hardly finish, and for his part de Cesaris tended to be involved in incidents and was too rough with the thing. He also wasn't fastest enough to match Patrese. He would have one star turn, though, running third in Mexico and crawling all over Senna's Lotus, only for the Brazilian to shove him off when he made a passing move. Through a variety of reasons, de Cesaris wouldn't take a chequered flag all year. Indeed, Brabham were in such a malaise that few races from the end of the year, Bernie Ecclestone (now much more interested in running F1 than a mere team) announced the team would be withdrawn until a buyer could be found.

On the streets of Detroit with the RialOnce again, for 1988, it seemed like the chips were down. However, Gunther Schmidt, who had ran the ATS team in the late 70s and early 1980s without tasting real success, was back in Formula 1 and running a Rial team to promote his other brand of alloy wheels. He even managed to lure old ATS designer Gustav Brunner from Ferrari. The result was the ARC1 looked rather like the Ferrari F187, and de Cesaris (with help from Marlboro) was signed to drive the single entry, powered by a Cosworth DFZ. It was his first drive in a non-turbo car since 1982, but the nimble car was comfortably midfield. There were innuendoes about an undersized fuel tank when the car ran 6th in Brazil before retiring seven laps from the end with what was announced as an engine failure. Finishes were rare as the bugs were worked out, but de Cesaris frequently qualified well, notably successive 12th fastest qualifying times in Mexico, Canada, America and France, and only running out of fuel cost him 5th place in Montreal. Next time out in Detroit, he drove a steady, careful race to finish an excellent 4th, consolidated by a 10th place at Paul Ricard. However, the second half of the season saw the car slip back down the grid, though another point went begging with an empty fuel tankdropping de Cesaris from 6th at the season-closing Australian Grand Prix.

The car hadn't been reliable, but aside from questionable fuel consumption, Andrea had been in the races, with only a 50/50 collision with his main competitor for the other drivers' nemesis, Rene Arnoux, at Spa blotting his copybook on Sundays. Well, at least in terms of crashes - he capped off a bad weekend (one car written off on Friday, one badly damaged on Saturday) in Japan by baulking Prost in the race, allowing Senna to take the lead (and the championship…). And this after harrying Larrousse driver Aguri Suzuki to a standstill to teach the novice Japanese driver a thing or two about manners… Practices saw even more wayward behaviour, de Cesaris writing off the team's second car at Imola, then the new spare at Monaco by ramming Gerhard Berger. This latter incident saw him fined $20,000 after he claimed there were no yellow flags to warn him of the spun Ferrari, something contradicted by video evidence. The following Mexican meeting saw him ram Bernd Schneider's Zakspeed, while Philippe Alliot received his attentions in Canada, then Warwick in Detroit.


With this hefty repair bill, he hadn't really got on with Schmidt, especially when it was announced he would join Scuderia Italia for 1989, signing a two-year deal. The team had made a good impression in 1988 with their Dallara-built chassis and driver Alex Caffi. Caffi's performances had meant the team's first car would avoid prequalifying in 1989, though the second new car would have to attempt the Friday morning sessions. Controversially, de Cesaris used his sway with Marlboro to be nominated for the first, exempt car. The Dallara BMS189 would use a DFZ and Pirelli tyres, which meant some days it was top 10 material, and some days it just wouldn't work. The opening race saw him retire late on with engine failure having started 15th (Caffi failing to prequalify), before he finished 10th at Imola (Caffi was 7th). Monaco saw an excellent start (10th, a place behind Caffi) and then a solid run up to 4th place, until an embarrassing incident that, like the barrel-roll at the 1985 Austrian GP or his MP4-totalling antics at Zandvoort in 1981, would be remembered more than the odd point against adversity.

At Montreal in the Dallara; in the wet race, he'd take third placeNelson Piquet, always rubbish on street tracks, and doubly-so in the awful Lotus-Judd, moved across on de Cesaris while being lapped, the pair locked wheels and stopped mid-track. Remarkably, de Cesaris began berating Piquet like a taxi drive while the three-times World Champion just sat there impassively, the luckless Alain Prost stewing behind, watching Ayrton Senna disappear into the distance. Eventually it was all sorted out, running Prost's race, and leaving de Cesaris a miserable 13th (he lost even more time stopping to berate bemused Lotus mechanics in the pits) when he could have been on the podium. There was sympathy for the accident, but scorn for his undignified behaviour. After a fuel pump problem put him out in Mexico there was another race to forget in Phoenix. Caffi started 6th, moved up to second, pitted, dropped to 6th and was charging again when he came up to lap de Cesaris and his team-mate put him into the wall… de Cesaris had a chance to redeem himself by moving up to 4th, but then destroyed the fuel pump. However, he finally managed to get something right in the very next race, when a rainy Canadian Grand Prix saw him take third place, and he made a tearful appearance on the podium. However, the next three tracks didn't suit the package, and he missed the cut in France and had only a brief race from 25th in Britain, before taking a mature, sensible 7th place (from 21st on the grid) at Hockenheim. The next time out in Hungary he was roundly humiliated by Caffi, who started 3rd to the veteran's 20th, and he then stripped the clutch at the start. Pirelli's race tyres were now falling further and further behind Goodyear, and thus both drives slipped back in an incredibly tight midfield, with whole meetings all but written off as the car just didn't suit some tracks, and that was that. Andrea soldiered on to another 7th place at the Spanish Grand Prix, then 10th at Suzuka. There was some hope for a good result when he started 9th in Australia, a place ahead of Caffi, but the race was wet and Pirelli's wet tyres were dreadful, de Cesaris lasting 12 laps before he aquaplaned into a wall.

Heading Patrese, Berger and Prost at Phoenix would be a false dawn for 1990Overall, the season had been a mixed bag. Caffi had largely had the measure of him, and at least six points (and possibly more for the team) thrown away with silly errors, but Andrea had put in some good drives, especially considering fast tracks just weren't something the car could cope with. Caffi was seduced away to Arrows with promises of Porsche engines in 1991 (ouch…), and so Emanuele Pirro was drafted in for the 1990 season. The year started with a bang, the most mixed-up grid in F1 history seeing him start third due to freak conditions at Phoenix (Pierluigi Martini was 2nd in the Minardi, Olivier Grouillard 8th in the Osella, Paolo Barilla 14th in the second Minardi, Moreno was 17th in the EuroBrun, while Gerhard Berger actually outqualified Ayrton Senna in a McLaren…). In the race he was passed by Prost, but looked good for points early on until a brake failure. Sadly, this was as good as things got, as the chassis wasn't brilliant, the Pirelli race tyres continued to disappoint, and the midfield was just too close. He started 9th in Brazil, only to crash on the first lap, while the throttle broke at his happy hunting ground of Monaco when points seemed possible. He wouldn't take the finish until he came home 13th in Mexico, but at least Pirro wasn't showing him up. Andrea then failed to qualify at Hockenheim, before bouncing back to 10th on the grid at the Hungaroring, only for the engine to fail. He took 10th in Italy, which was to be his best result of the year.


The second season with Scuderia Italia had been a disaster, and now people were starting to note the races without a victory - 150 and counting - as well as the number of crashes. By the end of 1990, he'd had enough of Beppe Luccini's team, and they'd had enough of him. He cast around for a drive, and the one he got was something of a surprise. Formula 3 expert and talent-spotter extraordinaire Eddie Jordan had taken the plunge of moving up to F1, landing an impressive clutch of sponsors, and a deal for Ford Cosworth HB engines of the specification used by Benetton in 1990. These weren't cheap however, and after signing Bertrand Gachot for the first car, Eddie needed someone with money for the second seat, and to the outrage of the British speciality press (who wanted Derek Warwick or Johnny Herbert to get the drive), he signed Andrea.

Monaco saw Andrea start a run off form that would send his stock sky-high in '91The 191 was pretty and fast, but the critics got to crow first, when de Cesaris hooked the wrong gear hitting a bump in Phoenix, blew an expensive HB V8, and failed to prequalify. Then in Brazil he started 13th (three places behind Gachot) before crashing out of 9th place. He outqualified the Belgian at Imola, starting 11th, and hung on in dire conditions to run 5th before the gear linkage disintegrated. Monaco saw him start an excellent 10th, but the throttle cable snapped after 21 laps. Then, finally, at Montreal it all came good as he started 11th, and led Gachot to 5th and 6th, before Mansell's famous last-lap retirement promoted them both. He repeated the performance at Mexico, again running 4th, only for the throttle to break within sight of the line. To general amazement he got out and tried to push the car over the line, leading Eddie Jordan to use all of his gab in persuading the stewards not to disqualify the Italian. 6th place in France made it three points finishes in a row, and the paddock was finally starting to take notice. Jordan's home race at Silverstone also promised a point or two, but a component failure caused a massive accident, spearing the 191 into a wall at huge speed. Nevertheless, the points the team had accrued were enough to get them out of prequalifying from the German Grand Prix onwards. Andrea marked the occasion by driving through the field from 17th on the grid to pip Gachot to an unlapped 5th place, while in Hungary he performed well on the tight, twisty circuit to take 7th after staring 17th.

The Belgian Grand Prix was to be a notable event for the team for a number of reasons. Gachot had been imprisoned for a CS spray attack on a London cabbie, and so Mercedes Junior Sportscar driver Michael Schumacher was drafted in. The young German was a sensation, putting the car 7th on the grid to de Cesaris' 11th place, and then moving up to 5th place before the clutch broke on the first lap. Andrea, though, was to have his own day in the sun, moving up to 2nd in a stunning drive, briefly pressing Senna for the lead (with the soon-to-be three times World Champion reduced to weaving to keep the Jordan behind), before settling for 2nd, only to have the engine overheat three laps from the end, leaving him classified in 13th. Schumacher was infamously snapped up by Benetton before the next round, with Roberto Moreno joining de Cesaris in the Jordan fold. At Monza de Cesaris started 12th, and moved up to a worthy 7th behind the Benettons before the finish. He would do the same diligent job at Estoril, taking a lapped 8th, and was joined by F3000 ace Alex Zanardi for the Spanish Grand Prix. He drove splendidly in he rain only for waterlogged electrics to halt his progress. In Japan he made his first big error of the year, getting the chicane all wrong second time round and taking both Dallaras with him in a race he could have taken points from. Then year ended damply in Australia, where abysmal conditions saw him to well to hang onto 8th place before the race was curtailed after 14 laps.

Astonishingly, after placing 9th overall, his best finish since 1983, de Cesaris wasn't retained by Jordan, who opted to sign Stefano Modena and Mauricio Gugelmin instead. It was a crushing disappointment - de Cesaris had not only scored points, but he'd had the edge over three of his team-mates in Gachot, Moreno and Zanardi. With hindsight there was no shame in starting four places behind Schumacher at Spa, especially when the young German spent the next few races showing everyone just what a poor job Piquet had been doing in the Benetton all season.

At least the good year meant de Cesaris had teams asking him to drive, rather than relying entirely on his money. He eventually signed for Tyrrell. The team had endured a disappointing 1991 season, where the combination of the 020 chassis, Pirelli tyres, Honda V10 engines and Modena hadn't reached the heights it should have, and high expectations meant that a dozen points was a depressing result. The winter saw the team's sponsors decimated, and de Cesaris and fellow driver Grouillard would be driving the modified 020B, with Ilmor V10 sponsors. In the team's limited testing programme, it became clear that the lighter engine gave much better balance to the chassis, resulting in a more nimble package, especially on Goodyear tyres.

A storming start to 1992 at KyalamiMost observers expected Grouillard to have the edge over de Cesaris, but he lined up in 12th to the Italian's 10th at the new Kyalami circuit. Andrea was forced off the road on the first lap by a collision between Karl Wendlinger and Martin Brundle, but then produced a brilliant charge from 20th to 9th by the 41st lap, only to retire with a misfire. Next up was the Mexican Grand Prix, one of de Cesaris' favourites, and for a while it looked like he would start from the top 6, but problems in the final session meant he only started 11th. Once again he had to take avoiding action at the start, this time to avoid Herbert's Lotus, but another fine comeback drive was rewarded with an excellent 5th place. He fought up from 13th to 8th at Interlagos, only for the electrics to fail, but then had a shaky race in Spain where he only just held a lurid first-lap spin in the rain, and then dropped out next time around with failing oil pressure. At Imola he once again advanced well, from 14th to 8th, before a lack of fuel pressure dropped him down to 14th again near the end.

Andrea was thoroughly enjoying the responsive Tyrrell, and the atmosphere in the team, and was walking all over Grouillard to boot, while Modena and Gugelmin struggled with woeful Yamaha engines at the back of the grid. His 33rd birthday saw him start 10th at Monaco, and points were there to be taken, only for the gearbox to fail after 9 laps. Montreal saw more points, a careful drive from 14th on the grid being rewarded with 5th place after Ukyo Katayama's late retirement. A run of poor races followed, before a determined drive to 8th in Hungary, followed by another 8th place in the wet/dry Belgian grand Prix - Andrea believed points were there to be scored, complaining bitterly than the slicks-shod Senna had held him up. The Italian Grand Prix saw him start 21st, but he fought up to 16th before the end of the first lap, and then duelled with Alboreto to the finish, eventually coming out on top to take the final point. In Portugual only an electronics fault (limiting his ride height) kept him back in 9th, after another long tussle with Alboreto - both experienced Italians enjoying an Indian summer. Better was to come at Suzuka, with Andrea starting 9th, and keeping the car going to take 4th place for his best result of the year. He then started a superb 7th in Australia, running in the points until the fuel pressure failed again.


The year had been excellent once again, Andrea retaining 9th overall in the Championship, and for 1993 the team had reason to be hopeful. A number of driver aids, including traction control and active suspension, had been successfully tried during 1992, and he would be joined by Ukyo Katayama in the other car, who brought both Cabin Club sponsorship and the interest of Yamaha. The Japanese company had humiliated themselves with their OX V12 unit over the past two seasons, and now decided to simply pay John Judd money to build an engine with their name on.

The aged Tyrrell 020C, shortly to be replaced by the cutting-edge, but undriveable, 021However, the year would be a disaster. The 020 was updated again early on as the 020C, but the Yamaha-Judd engines weren't much of an improvement on the Ilmors, and the car was just too old. Faced with an uncompetitive mount, de Cesaris' accident-prone side began to show again. He didn't crack the top 20 on the grid until Imola, and even Monaco only gave him a starting place of 19th, points never close as he finished in 10th. The new 021 arrived at Silverstone, but was neither reliable or fast, and he was unclassified after starting only 21st. He wouldn't finish the new car until Hungary, where he came home 11th, behind Katayama. The reliability eventually came, with four finishes from the last six races, but the car was never fast, the under-tested active suspension making the 021 almost impossible to set up. The practice crashes as a frustrated de Cesaris pushed to move up the grid began to mount, and Tyrrell did not take up his option for a third year at the team. With shades of 1990 (the last time he'd spent a second year at a team, after a decent first season), de Cesaris finished the season without points, or even a good performance to point at.

A wayward 1993 season had eroded the reputation he'd built up in 1991-92, and he was left trying to find a drive. A return to Minardi looked possible, but then the Faenza team merged with Scuderia Italia, also taking over the contracts of Alboreto and Badoer in addition to Pierluigi Martini. Olivier Beretta outbid him for the second Larrousse seat. His Marlboro money was useless for a Ligier seat. Arrows went with Gianni Morbidelli. Even God couldn't get him back in a McLaren, let alone Phillip West. He didn't want to drive for Simtek or Pacific. He was out of Formula One.

Or so it seemed. In the season-opening Grand Prix, Jos Verstappen moved up to lap the Ligier of Eric Bernard, something Jordan driver Eddie Irvine saw as an excellent overtaking opportunity, with the end result being the three of them, plus Martin Brundle, ending in an expensive pile-up of shattered cars, Verstappen after a nasty roll. The FIA, already irked at Irvine for his antics at the previous year's Japanese Grand Prix, gave the Ulsterman a one-race ban. Eddie Jordan appealed, and the ban was extended to three races…

For the Pacific Grand Prix, local sponsors and the chance for some good PR saw Aguri Suzuki take the drive. However, Eddie Jordan wanted someone else to drive in Imola, and enough water had passed under the bridge (or both parties were desperate enough…) for de Cesaris to rejoin the team he had enjoyed his best year at for the San Marino Grand Prix.

The reunion didn't get off to the best start when de Cesaris crashed heavily at the Imola testing, but that was nothing compared to the black race weekend. On Friday, his team-mate Rubens Barrichello suffered a massive crash, putting him out for the meeting. On Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger lost his life, the first Formula 1 death for eight years. Andrea started the race 21st, still rusty from his six-month layoff, and managed to avoid the stalled JJ Lehto at the start. Then, of course, came Ayrton Senna's fatal accident on the 7th lap, and the restart. Andrea had an unobtrusive race, struggling with his fitness, and spinning out of 10th place in the later stages.

Formula 1 was still in shock when the cars arrived at Monaco, and aside from Williams and Simtek, Jordan were rocking, their bright young star Barrichello suffering physical symptoms from his crash, and the mental damage from his hero and compatriot's death. Of course, Sauber would also have a Hellish weekend when Karl Wendlinger crashed and went into a coma. Andrea placed 14th on the grid, just ahead of a subdued Barrichello, and then drove a mature, sensible race through the usual Monaco attrition to take a lapped 4th, fending off a charging Jean Alesi at the end. Irvine would retake the Jordan seat at the following race, but the result meant de Cesaris was an obvious choice to take over at Sauber.


Start 200 in the Sauber; the engine blew.The Italian agreed a race-by-race deal with the Swiss outfit, to cover the seat until Wendlinger regained fitness. He would join Sauber at the Canadian Grand Prix, and de Cesaris qualified 14th, having hardly had any test time, for his 200th Grand Prix. He ran midfield before the Mercedes V10 lost power, ending his race. The next race, at Magny-Cours, he started 11th and raced well on a two-stop strategy, fending off a determined Herbert for the final point.

Sadly, the move to Sauber wasn't the fairytale it could have been. The team had, after their impressive 1993 debut, seemed set to make the next step, with Mercedes backing the Ilmor V10 and the Broker magazine sponsoring them. Sadly, it all went wrong. The C14 chassis proved difficult to set up, meaning the drivers tended to qualify well and then slide back down the leader board. Broker collapsed before the French Grand Prix, and a short-notice deal with Tissot didn't come close to matching the team's losses. After the Monaco debacle, Mercedes were making unsure noises (photographs of Wendlinger's wrecked car, three-point star prominent on the side, had stirred memories of Le Mans in 1955) about continuing with Sauber. The lack of money meant the C14 was barely developed and unreliable to boot, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen was in a reputation-destroying mood.

As such, the season for Andrea became very much an ordeal. He greatly disliked the C14, especially its' nervous handling, and ended up only 18th on the grid at Silverstone, with another engine problem ending his day early. For Mercedes' home race at Hockenheim, he qualified 18th again (compared to Frentzen in 9th) and collided with Zanardi before even crossing the startline, the pair taking both Minardis with them. Frentzen capped Sauber's day by being unable to avoid the Mika Hakkinen-induced chaos at the other end of the grid. Andrea also received a one-race suspended ban for leaving the circuit without reporting to the stewards first. The Hungarian Grand Prix saw de Cesaris again start well back, in 17th, and he managed to get stuck behind Herbert's mobile-chicane Lotus, eventually losing patience and spinning trying to get by, with Gianni Morbidelli collecting the Sauber.

Even Spa couldn't help him for once, his Friday time meaning he had to start 15th after Saturday's session was wet, and he advanced only to 12th before the throttle jammed and span him off. Things improved after the team found some money to test at Monza, and the Italian Grand Prix saw de Cesaris start 8th, three places ahead of Frentzen. However, his race car was damaged after Irvine's brain-fade at the first start, and the spare didn't work as well, with Andrea still holding 8th when the engine blew after 21 laps. He struggled again at Estoril, qualifying 17th and retiring with downshift problems. After this round, Wendlinger managed to complete a 100-lap Porsche Supercup race, and was pencilled in to return for the Japanese Grand Prix. This meant the European Grand Prix at Jerez would be de Cesaris' last for the team. He could only manage 18th on the grid, and only made any sort of impression by holding up Damon Hill while being lapped, costing the Williams driver four seconds. He retired from 15th after the throttle cable snapped on lap 39. With that, de Cesaris set off on holiday, and all but turned his back on F1. Ironically, Sauber decided Wendlinger wasn't ready to return, and tried to contact Andrea, to no avail, and JJ Lehto was collared for the drive in Japan and Australia. The Italian was never really in contention for a seat anywhere in 1995, and Formula 1 had finally left him behind after 208 starts.

Andrea probably wasn't particularly upset. His last two seasons in tricky, nervous cars hadn't been enjoyable. Instead of turning out in the DTM or GTs, de Cesaris decided to enjoy life, splitting his time between working as a currency broker in Monaco and travelling the world windsurfing. He was absent from the motorsport scene until he turned up (moustachioed) in the paddock at the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, which did ignite a few old fires.

Andrea on the way to 10th in the INA Grand Prix Masters car at SilverstoneHe signed up Team Unipart for the Grand Prix Masters series, and topped the testing times at Silverstone in October, ahead of the likes of Nigel Mansell, Derek Warwick and Stefan Johansson. In the inaugural race, again at Silverstone, he took a storming 4th place, proving he hadn't changed much by shoving Warwick off on the way. The 2006 series, which saw Andrea switch to Team INA (the more things change…) was less successful, as he retired from the Qatar round, before coming 10th in the wet at Silverstone.

As in F1, Andrea isn't one of the biggest draws going, but the GPM paddock is a better place for him. That he was fast in his day is without question, and his frequent good performances at the likes of Spa and Monaco show his skills. However, all too often the red mist would descend… Early wayward moments meant he spent the vast majority of his career trying to undo earlier wrongs, and redeem himself, and a slip-up was never far away. Sure, 208 wins without a victory is a big losing streak, but when you consider only one of his team-mates scored a win in the same car, it changes in perspective a little. He only failed to score points in three of his twelve full seasons, and you don't keep getting asked back if you're all that poor - all it needed was a team who were willing to trade a few written-off tubs for a handful of points and some Marlboro money. Few drivers could combine the ridiculous and the sublime with such regularity, and Formula 1's midfield could well be enlivened by another Andrea de Cesaris.