Last Italian to go close to Formula One title
|Michele Alboreto is the last Italian|
to win a Grand Prix in a Ferrari
Racing for Ferrari, Alboreto finished runner-up in 1985, beaten by just 20 points by Alain Prost. Riccardo Patrese finished second in 1992 but the gap between him and champion Nigel Mansell was a massive 52 points after the British driver won nine Grand Prix victories to Patrese's one.
Patrese was never even in the hunt in 1992 after Mansell began the season with five straight wins.By contrast, Alboreto's 1985 duel with Prost could have gone either way until well into the second half of the campaign. Alboreto scored two race wins and four second places to lead by five points after winning race nine of the 16-race series in Germany.
However, a series of disastrous engine failures late in the season wrecked Alboreto's chance to be the first Italian champion since Alberto Ascari in 1953.
|Michele Alboreto during|
his period driving for Tyrrell
Next up was the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and never would a home victory have been cheered so loudly had Alboreto been able to finish in front and regain the initiative. As it was, the Ferrari's reliability suddenly disappeared and Alboreto came home last of the 13 drivers to complete the race.
It was a profound disappointment for the Italian, for whom being hired to drive for Ferrari had been the pinnacle of his career. Ironically, the appointment came after he had openly criticised owner Enzo Ferrari for failing to hire an Italian driver, arguing that both Patrese and Elio de Angelis were perfectly qualified.
Enzo Ferrari's counter argument was that for Italian drivers there was too much emotion attached to driving the iconic red car and that under the weight of patriotic expectation they were too inclined to let passion get the better of professionalism.
|Michele Alboreto at the wheel of the Ferrari in which he|
finished runner-up to Prost in the 1985 F1 championship
Alboreto was born in Milan, where his father was a sales representative and his mother worked for the municipal authority. His career in motorsport began in 1976, racing a car he and a number of his friends had built for the Formula Monza series. Two years later Alboreto moved up to Formula Three and began to enjoy considerable success.
In his debut season for Ferrari, Alboreto took victory in the third round in Belgium, where he became the first Italian driver to win an F1 Grand Prix for Ferrari since Ludovico Scarfiotti in 1966. Alboreto finished the 1984 season in fourth place.
After his peak of 1985, however, he never won another race for Ferrari in three seasons, the closest he came being runner-up at Monza to Austrian teammate Gerhard Berger in 1988, an extraordinary result that came days after Enzo Ferrari had died at the age of 90.
|Alboreto was driving an Audi R8 when he suffered his|
fatal crash while testing in Germany
He spent 1989 back with Tyrrell, but thereafter moved from one small team to another, the last of them the low-budget Minardi operation from Faenza, in Emila-Romagna. From 1995 he concentrated on sports cars, competing in Ferraris, Porsches and then the all-conquering Audi works team.
He won the Sebring 12-hour race in an Audi R8 in 2001 and that proved to be his last victory. Two weeks later, while testing the Audi at Lausitzring, near Dresden, in preparation for another attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours, he suffered fatal injuries when the car left the track, hit a wall and somersaulted several times.
At the request of his wife, Nadia, he was cremated at the Lambrate cemetery in Milan. Aged just 44 at the time of his death, he left behind two children, Alice and Noemi, as well as countless friends and admirers. Alboreto remains the last Italian to have won a Grand Prix for Ferrari.
|The Basilica of San Giovanni Battista in Monza|
Apart from the motor racing circuit, Monza is notable for its 13th century Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, often known as Monza Cathedral, which contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones. According to tradition, the crown was found on Jesus's Cross. Note also the Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, which has a sumptuous interior and a court theatre.
Hotels in Monza by Hotels.com
The town of Maranello in Emilia-Romagna, about 18km from Modena, would probably have remained relatively anonymous but for the decision taken in the early 1940s by Enzo Ferrari to relocate there after his factory in Modena suffered from repeated bombing raids in the Second World War. The town houses the Museo Ferrari, which details the history of the company and has many vintage racing and sports cars on display, and is also the starting point for the annual Italian Marathon, which finishes in nearby Carpi.
Hotels in Maranello by Expedia
Vittorio Jano - genius designer behind Italy's Formula One success
Luigi Fagioli - Formula One's oldest winner
How little 'Pinin' Farina became a giant of car design
Also on this day:
1896: The birth of writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
(Picture credits: Ferrari in 1985 by Spurzem; Audi R8 by dro!d; Basilica in Monza by Francescogb; all via Wikimedia Commons)