Michele Alboreto

Born:
23rd December 1956
Milan, Lombardy
Died:
25th April 2001 (Aged 44)
Lausitzring, Brandenburg (D), testing
Nationality:
Italian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Enzo Ferrari did not like employing compatriots so it was a big deal when Michele Alboreto became the Scuderia’s first fulltime Italian driver since Lorenzo Bandini in 1967. Motor racing was Alboreto’s life. Supremely popular amongst his peers, who respected his skill and the way he went about the business, he loved the sport’s history and grew up spectating at nearby Monza. He watched Jackie Stewart win a slipstreaming thriller in the 1969 Italian Grand Prix as a 12-year-old. Ronnie Peterson was his hero and Alboreto’s helmet carried the Swedish national colours.

Formula 3 champion and race winner in F2 and sports cars

He started racing in Formula Monza in 1976 and soon came to prominence in Formula 3. Runner-up in the 1979 Italian Championship, he won the European title for Euroracing and March-Alfa Romeo a year later. The young Italian also raced for the Lancia sports car team in 1980 and he finished second on three occasions when sharing a Lancia Beta Monte Carlo with more experienced drivers such as Eddie Cheever and rally legend Walter Röhrl.

Alboreto dovetailed that Lancia programme with European Formula 2 for Minardi in 1981 and he scored first victories in both categories. But he was involved in the accident at the Pau F2 race which left Kenny Acheson with serious leg injuries.

Formula 1 delivers a famous team's final victories

By then he was also a full-time Formula 1 driver as he graduated with Tyrrell in the 1981 San Marino GP. In a transitional era between normally-aspirated to turbocharged engines, Alboreto and Tyrrell used the venerable Ford Cosworth DFV during its final seasons.

Out-powered by the newer but less reliable turbos, Alboreto took his opportunities when they came. Notable was the final race of 1982. With all eyes in Las Vegas on the title battle between Keke Rosberg and John Watson, Alboreto scored a maiden victory when the leading Renaults failed once more. Another followed in Detroit a year later in what was Tyrrell’s 23rd and the DFV engine’s 155th victory in final successes for two motor racing legends.

Championship challenger with Ferrari

That earned Alboreto the call from Ferrari for 1984 and he won the Belgian GP in his first year with the team, although the questionable reliability of his Ferrari 126C4 hindered his cause. Outpaced by Alain Prost and McLaren on occasion during 1985, there were days when Alboreto was inspired. He mounted a year-long championship challenge for the world title and won twice. But crucial mechanical failures ultimately robbed Alboreto and he finished runner-up behind the Frenchman. Unknown at the time, Alboreto was at the height of his success and he would not add to his five F1 wins. He left Ferrari after a frustrating 1988 with Enzo dead and team management wanting new blood to reignite the team.

Formula 1 decline and subsequent career

Alboreto briefly returned to Tyrrell and was third in Mexico but his career was now in inexorable decline. Seasons with Larrousse, Arrows, Scuderia Italia and Minardi followed – the hopes of victory gone but Alboreto’s love of the sport would not allow him to retire.

Having driven his final GP (Australia 1994), Alboreto moved to the new Indy Racing League in 1996 – retiring early at Indianapolis but finishing on the podium in New Hampshire. He settled in sports cars and won the Le Mans 24 Hours for Joest and Porsche in 1997 on his fifth appearance in the classic.

He was part of Joest’s new Audi team for 2000 at the beginning of a programme that would eventually dominate endurance racing. Third at Le Mans was followed by victory in Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans. He then opened 2001 by winning the Sebring 12 hours with Dindo Capello and Laurent Aïello.

But Alboreto was lost a month later when preparing for Le Mans on the Lausitzring test track. He suffered a left-rear puncture at over 200mph and his car flipped over the barriers. He was killed instantly. Former team-mate Gerhard Berger reflected that "maybe he should have stopped racing some years ago, but he just couldn’t leave it – he died doing what he loved".

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2001 American Le Mans Series
Audi Sport Team Joest
1 0 1 1 10
2000 American Le Mans Series
Audi Sport North America
1 1 1 1 0
1996/1997 Indy Racing League
Team Scandia
2 0 1 0
0% win rate
32nd 62
1996 Indy Racing League
Team Scandia
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 63
1995 International Touring Car Series
Schubel Engineering
7 (3) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1995 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Schubel Engineering
13 0 0 0
0% win rate
22nd 4
1994 F1 World Championship
Minardi Scuderia Italia
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
24th 1
1993 F1 World Championship
Lola BMS Scuderia Italia
9 (5) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1992 F1 World Championship
Footwork Mugen Honda
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
10th 6
1991 F1 World Championship
Footwork
Footwork Porsche
9 (7) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1990 F1 World Championship
Footwork Arrows Racing
13 (3) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1989 F1 World Championship
Equipe Larrousse
Tyrrell Racing Organisation
10 (4) 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 6
1988 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
16 0 3 0
0% win rate
5th 24
1987 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
16 0 3 0
0% win rate
7th 17
1986 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
16 0 1 0
0% win rate
8th 14
1985 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
16 1 8 2
13% win rate
2nd 53
1984 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
16 1 4 1
7% win rate
4th 30.5
1983 F1 World Championship
Benetton Tyrrell Team
15 0 1 1
7% win rate
12th 10
1983 World Endurance Championship
Martini Racing (Lancia)
5 0 0 0 86th 2
1982 F1 World Championship
Team Tyrrell
16 0 2 1
7% win rate
7th 25
1982 World Endurance Championship
Martini Racing (Lancia)
8 2 3 3 5th 63
1981 F1 World Championship
Tyrrell Racing Organisation
10 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1981 European F2 Championship
Minardi Team
10 1 2 1
10% win rate
8th 13
1981 World Endurance Championship
Martini Racing (Lancia)
4 0 1 1 52nd 37
1980 World Championship of Makes
Lancia Corse
4 0 3 0 55
1980 European F3 Championship
Euroracing
14 3 8 4
29% win rate
1st 60
1979 European F3 Championship
Euroracing
6 2 2 0
0% win rate
6th 19