Elio de Angelis

Born:
26th March 1958
Rome, Lazio
Died:
15th May 1986 (Aged 28)
Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (F), following a testing accident at Paul Ricard on the previous day
Nationality:
Italian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

When Elio de Angelis graduated to Formula 1 in 1979 a cynical press corps was quick to point to his family fortune rather than notice a talented racing driver. But he won over his critics in the paddock and media alike to win two Grands Prix. Although never the quickest in the field, de Angelis somehow represented a better, more civilised age.

Good looking, rich, charming, a natural all-round sportsman and concert-standard pianist – Elio de Angelis had it all. His father Giulio was an off-shore powerboat racer whose considerable fortune was made in the Rome construction industry.

Success in karting and cars

Runner-up in the 1975 World Karting Championship at Paul Ricard, de Angelis enjoyed a sensational first year in cars when he graduated to Formula 3 in 1977 with a Trivellato Racing Chevron B38-Toyota. Victory in his third-ever race, second at Monaco and a European Championship winner in the traditional Monza Lotteria, he then switched to a Ralt RT1 to snatch the Italian F3 title by storming from the back to win the finale. Those impressive performances were capped by his Formula 2 debut at Misano when he qualified a Minardi-run Ralt RT1-Ferrari in fifth position.

The start of his 1978 F2 campaign was hampered by the recalcitrant Ferrari engine before a mid-season switch to a works Chevron B42-Hart was rewarded with third at Misano. De Angelis also stepped back into F3 for the Monaco support race and exposed his Latin side – barging past Patrick Gaillard at the Loews Hairpin to steal a controversial but prestigious victory.

Formula 1 with Shadow leads to Lotus chance

F1 followed in 1979 with the uncompetitive Shadow DN9B-Ford. The 21 year old matured throughout the year and finished fourth in the final round at Watkins Glen. He joined Lotus for 1980 and finished second in Brazil to prompt talk of F1’s youngest winner to date. Further points scores gave de Angelis seventh in the championship but that win would not materialise at first.

He remained with Lotus for six seasons – starting more races for Colin Chapman’s concern than anyone else. Although 1981 was all but lost developing the Lotus 88 twin-chassis red herring, his consistency still resulted in de Angelis finishing eighth in the points as the Roman outperformed new team-mate Nigel Mansell on more occasions than not.

Grand Prix winner for Lotus

The Ford Cosworth-powered runners were blown away by the turbos in 1982 although they occasionally out-lasted the fragile forced-injection engines. One such day was the 1982 Austrian GP when mechanical failures among the pacesetters meant that de Angelis led an F1 race for the first time. Champion-elect Keke Rosberg hunted him down during the last five laps but just failed in a last-gasp lunge for victory. Elio de Angelis was a GP winner at last by a scant 0.05 seconds.

Lotus joined the turbo-brigade with Renault power for 1983 but a first pole position at the European GP at Brands Hatch was a rare highlight in a year blighted by poor reliability.

Third in the World Championship

The 1984 season was the exact opposite. On pole again for the opening round in Brazil, de Angelis finished the first nine races before engine failure while leading in Germany. It was his best championship campaign so far with de Angelis third in a year dominated by McLaren’s Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.

Ayrton Senna joined Lotus in 1985 and it was much to the Italian’s credit that he out-qualified F1’s new star three times, including pole position at Montréal. He was also awarded a second victory at Imola when on-the-road winner Prost was disqualified.

The tragic switch to Brabham

De Angelis moved to Brabham for 1986 to drive Gordon Murray’s low-line BT55-BMW. He was testing at Paul Ricard when he crashed in the "S" de la Verrerie. The car was launched over the barrier and came to rest upside-down. Safety marshals were ill-equipped and it took 10 minutes to extinguish the fire and extricate de Angelis. With no helicopter on hand, a further 30 vital minutes were lost. He had only broken his collarbone but de Angelis died in hospital the following day.

A needless and senseless death prompted an overhaul of safety at test sessions, and de Angelis was the last driver to die in a GP car for eight years. Some 20,000 mourners, including many of his colleagues, attended his funeral in Rome.

He drove with great mechanical sympathy and was expert at nursing a sick car to the finish. His privileged upbringing and effortless talent perhaps meant he did not display the ruthless edge needed to always turn speed into wins but Elio de Angelis was Italian style and charm personified.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1986 F1 World Championship
Motor Racing Developments
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1985 F1 World Championship
John Player Special Team Lotus
16 1 3 1
7% win rate
5th 33
1984 F1 World Championship
John Player Team Lotus
16 1 4 0
0% win rate
3rd 34
1983 F1 World Championship
John Player Team Lotus
15 1 0 0
0% win rate
17th 2
1982 F1 World Championship
John Player Team Lotus
15 0 1 1
7% win rate
9th 23
1981 F1 World Championship
John Player Team Lotus
Team Essex Lotus
14 0 0 0
0% win rate
8th 14
1980 F1 World Championship
Team Essex Lotus
14 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 13
1979 F1 World Championship
Shadow Racing Team
14 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 3
1979 BMW M1 Procar
BMW Italia
4 0 1 1
25% win rate
13th 20
1978 European F2 Championship
Chevron Cars
Minardi Team
10 (1) 0 1 0
0% win rate
14th 4
1978 Aurora AFX British F1 Championship
Chevron Cars
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
16th 12
1977 European F2 Championship
Minardi Team
Trivellato Racing Team
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 European F3 Championship
Trivellato Racing Team
Elio de Angelis
9 (1) 2 1 1
12% win rate
7th 18
1977 Italian F3 Championship 1st -