My toughest rival has always been myself. I was very rarely satisfied with my performance so the person I had to deal with throughout my whole career was myself. It was not always about beating other people, it was more about constantly trying to improve my own performance in all the cars that I raced.
If I have to choose one rival I want to go back to my karting days when I was fighting Andrea de Angelis, Elio’s brother, for the championship. We were good friends but he was my ‘sporting nightmare’, the rival who kept me awake at night. We all grew up together in Rome. There was Eddie Cheever, Andrea de Cesaris, Elio de Angelis, but they were older than me so it was Andrea who became my main rival. His family had big resources, the best equipment. We did not have this, and I won both my national championships in 1976 and ’79 at the very last race. This taught me never to give up, winning in the last laps of the last race.
There were always three races in one day. In the first one we collided at the first corner and I was out with a bent rear axle. So in the second one he started first, I started last, my dad and I fixing the kart at the last minute. Andrea was quick, the battle was on, and we won the next two races to take the championship. It was incredible, like a fairy tale, the sweetest way to take my first title.