Michele Alboreto
by Salvo Toscano

Michele Alboreto had a long and frustrating career in Formula 1 which ended with Minardi in 1994. In 1981 Alboreto had his first stint with Minardi in Formula 2. His win at Misano is Minardi's only victory in the category and the same year Michele was promoted to Formula 1 with Tyrrell. His one-off entry at Imola impressed Ken Tyrrell so much he gave him a three year contract. Alboreto won his first race with the British team the following year in Las Vegas and there must have been something he liked about the United States because he won again in Detroit in 1983. It was the last win for a normally-aspirated engine before the start of the turbo era. Michele is best known for his five years with Ferrari (1984-88) and he is the last Italian to have had a decent crack at the title in a red car.

After fatalities in the 1950s and 60s Enzo Ferrari famously avoided employing Italian drivers but this time he broke his own rule. "He's a youngster who drives so well and makes few mistakes. He reminds me of Von Trips, whom Alboreto resembles even in his educated and serious demeanour," Ferrari said at the time.

He proved the old man right by winning the Belgian GP in his first year at Maranello, finishing fourth in the championship. In truth Ferrari really wasn't in the same league as McLaren and Williams but Michele still won in Canada and Germany in 1985. It was his best season but he finished runner-up to a man winning the first of four titles, Alain Prost. Turmoil at Maranello led to a dismal final three years with Ferrari. Michele failed to score another victory as an ailing Enzo oversaw another power-struggle in the design department. Before his death in 1988 he even sacked his own son in the great V12 debate.

A few weeks after Ferrari's passing, Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto scored an emotional 1-2 for the Scuderia at Monza. It marked the end of Michele's time at Maranello and ushered in a sad, six-year trek down the pitlane for one of the best drivers of his generation. It should be said Michele didn't see it that way and joined each new team with characteristic, some would say blind, optimism. He thought he had a Williams deal for 1989 but instead ended-up back at Tyrrell. He fell out with the man who'd given him his break in 1981 and after six races switched to Larrousse.

He continued at Arrows/Footwork and Scuderia Italia (where he failed to qualify the dreadful car five times) before a final season with Minardi in 1994. Michele partnered compatriot Pierluigi Martini, in the fourth of five seasons when Minardi would field an all-Italian line-up. In a last hurrah Michele scored one point at Monaco before his F1 career finally fizzled out. He headed off to the German Touring Car series with Alfa Romeo and later proved he could still do the business by winning Le Mans with Porsche in 1997 (with ex-Ferrari team-mate Stefan Johansson and Tom Kristensen) and coming third with Audi in 2000. Alboreto suffered a fatal accident while testing the Audi R8 at the new Lausitzring facility in eastern Germany in April 2001.