VF1blog: Remembering Elio de Angelis
The Rome born racing driver made his debut in F1 after becoming Italian F3 champion in 1977. Elio took up the challenge on his young shoulders with Shadows in 1979 and came inches closer to be crowned as the youngest ever grand prix winner at the age of twenty two in the 1980′s race at Brazil.
His moment finally arrived at Osterreichring two years later in 1982 when he nursed his Lotus 91 to victory in an awe-inspiring close encounter with his close friend Keke Rosberg. That was the last time the legendary Chapman’s cap flew in the air before his death in December the same year. He finished ahead of team-mate Nigel Mansell with twenty three points from the fifteen race calendar.
After the stressful run in 1983, when he retired in all but two races competed, Elio progressed to third in the standings with four podiums to his credit the next season. He teamed up with the young gun Ayrton Senna in what thought to be Lotus’ revival year and the pair turned out to be successful as Senna stunned the whole of the paddock with some storming qualifying laps and victories in Portugal and Belgium.
Closing the season with five points adrift of Senna, the consistent finisher in Elio was tough enough and gave the Brazilian a run for his money with taking the chequered flag in San Marino after Prost disqualified for technical infringement. That win regretfully turned out to be his last one. As Senna started playing political games, Elio decided to switch elsewhere.
In his last year, Angelis moved to Brabham and replaced Nelson Piquet. He took behind the wheel of the radical Brabham BT55, designed by Gordon Murray and David North, with a tilted BMW four-pot engine to allow substantial flow to the rear wing. Some early glitches meant that the car wasn’t a championship challenger but Angelis pushed it to the very limit.
Elio de Angelis perished on May 15th 1986 at a test session in Paul Ricard when the rear wing of his Brabham BT55 disconnected and resulted in the lose of downforce. He was unable to get out by himself from the stricken car that caught fire. The lack of track safety and inadequate marshal support to blame for the tragedy as Elio’s soul rested in peace a day after he was hospitalised.
Described as ‘the last gentleman player’, Elio de Angelis was a great human on and off the track, a consistent performer and a very skillful pianist. Unluckily he was also one of the last victims of F1′s negligence to driver safety. The young Roman will ever be remembered in our hearts!
Author: Suren F1
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