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“For someone who always had been on front, to be behind was a world of shit. The race start was awfully dangerous, you found yourself by the side of de Cesaris… by the side of drivers that can’t drive shit.”

Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet’s quote is surprising. However you have to know that other drivers also shared this state of mind. Andrea de Cesaris drove in Formula 1 from 1980 to 1994. He participated in a whooping 208 races, only to complete a quarter of them. Reliability is an explanation, of course, but the curly-haired Italian did not pull any punches either. Accidents, collisions, spins, he painted the town red. However “De Crasharis“, nickname given by his peers, sometimes had astonishing bursts of speed. When he wasn’t leaving the track, De Cesaris happened to battle with great drivers: Lauda, Prost, Senna, you name it. Let’s look back at a career full of punctures and broken wings.


The lil’ Andrew was born in Rome, on May the 31st, 1959. According to the popular belief, his mother was a lumberjack and his father was a coachbuilder. Like everyone else, de Cesaris’ career starts with go-karts. One knows it’s hard to climb the ladder of motorsport, however the Roman has a major backup. Marlboro is his personal sponsor and ATM. In 1978, the driver takes the plunge in open-wheel and competes in British Formula 3. Soon enough, his ability to spin off the track amazes everyone. One year spent in the graveltrap later, de Cesaris ends up runner-up in the standings, just behind a bloke named Chico Serra.

De Cesaris accumulated trophies though. And those, paired up with the unfailing support of Marlboro, allow the driver to enter Formula 2 in Ron Dennis’ team, the soon-to-be boss of McLaren. The Roman’s cadence was on point: podium, crash, podium, crash, podium… And by the end of the season, Alfa Romeo popped up to bless Andrea. In Formula 1, the Quadrifoglio told Vittorio Brambilla to basically sod off. And with two races to go on the calendar, de Cesaris was called to fill up this empty seat. The beginning of a truly amazing story…

There are pictures that you just can’t make up…


Then, Ron Dennis remembered the good old days when drivers binned his cars. So de Cesaris is hired to drive for McLaren the following season. He is paired up with John Watson. The Roman first full F1 season is… how do I put this? Well, he completed six races out of 14. It is told that the mechanics had nightmares of a McLaren trashed by de Cesaris. Some were so afraid of the beast that the team deliberatly withdrew the Roman’s car the day before the Dutch Grand Prix after an umpteenth crash!

OK, so the next one is me being petty. But I love it though. During a season, a driver happens to crash his car, like, three of four times top, right? Right. But prior to the Dutch race, de Cesaris had crashed eighteen times! Surprizingly, this is a record. Watson, some twelve spots higher in the standings, probably wondered what was wrong with McLaren’s HR director. Hence his nickname, John What’s Wrong.

I have to say, everyone was shook when they learned that McLaren and de Cesaris went their own way for 1982.


Then Andrea de Cesaris goes back to Alfa Romeo and crushes a 19-year old record. Nothing to do with crashes though, sorry about that. This guy simply became the youngest polesitter of Formula 1! You already know he did it in the States, the only country where dreams can come true. On raceday, the driver quietly sat in second for a twentyish laps. Finally, a podium!

No, actually. I have been told that he did bin it. You see, that’s the whole story of de Cesaris right there. The man can achieve anything and then ruin everything.

Later that year in Austria, de Cesaris was so focused on an overtake attempt that he ends up leaving the track. Fortunately, he did not forget to take out his teammate, Bruno Giacomelli, with him. De Cesaris even beat up his previous record with 12 retirements in a year. His 1983 campaign starts so well with an exclusion. The reason? The Roman blew up three turbos in Brazil, so he was pissed. Actually, he was so mad that he refused to take part of a mandatory FIA control!

But there were high notes in 1983 too. In Belgium, de Cesaris made a marvellous start. He wiped off the poleman, I think it was a guy named Prost or something… Nothing important. The Alfa Romeo driver was an early leader before the car decided funtime was over.

Austria 1982 – De Cesaris didn’t even make it through the first corner…


However Alfa is not impressed. And like Brambilla years before, it’s time to go somewhere else for de Cesaris. The Roman is hired by Ligier for 1984. The car was horrible, and so was the driver. I guess it’s no surprise if I tell you that he retired 10 times. 1985 is a perfect copy/paste. In Austria, de Cesaris leaves the track once again and rolls his car several times! The good thing is that the driver is unhurt but his mind went blank. After his crash, he goes to the Ligier garage and tell the crew in a broken French “J’