Runner-up in the 1991 FIA F3000 Championship, Alex Zanardi made his F1 debut for Jordan in the season’s final three Grands Prix. It marked the start of a faltering F1 career with Minardi and Lotus, which included sixth place in the 1993 Brazilian GP but was interrupted by severe concussion sustained in a violent accident at Eau Rouge during practice in Belgium that year.
Without an F1 drive after 1994, Zanardi emerged as a star for Chip Ganassi’s Champ Car team. He won back-to-back titles in 1997-98 to earn another F1 chance with Williams. However, his 1999 return yielded nothing better than seventh in Italy. To emphasise his disappointing campaign, team-mate Ralf Schumacher was sixth in the standings.
He returned to Champ Cars in 2001 with Mo Nunn’s new team. The American Memorial 500 at the Lausitzring was Zanardi’s most competitive outing and he led before a late fuel stop. Sadly, he spun as he left the pits and Alex Tagliani’s Reynard-Ford T-boned him at 200mph. Zanardi lost the lower half of both of his legs and was lucky to survive.
The Italian returned to racing at the wheel of a modified BMW in the 2003 European Touring Car Championship – scoring several ETCC and later WTCC victories – and began his hand-cycling career four years later. A veteran of the New York and London wheelchair marathons, he collected two gold medals in the 2012 Paralympics – the first time he had won a race at Brands Hatch.