Alessandro Nannini was born in 1959 in the medieval city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy, where his family ran a chain of coffee bars and also sold sweets and coffee under the family name. He gained some early race experience in rallying and first joined the Minardi Team in Formula 2 in 1982. When Pierluigi Martini returned to Formula 3000 in 1986 and the Minardi Team for the first time fielded two cars, Nannini became one of the drivers. His debut season at the wheel of the M185b and M186 cars were marred by the thirsty and unreliable Motori Moderni engine and a rickety gear box. He finished only the Mexican Grand Prix in 1986, some 4 laps behind Gerhard Berger's winning Benetton.
His best qualifying performance that year was a 17 spot at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The 1987 season was not much better in terms of getting the car across the chequered flag, though Nannini's qualifying performance was very decent. He nearly finished in the points during the German Grand Prix, let down once again by a thirsty engine. After his two seasons at Minardi, Nannini moved to Benetton, where he scored a string of podium finishes and took him his first and only victory at the Japanese Grand Prix of 1989.
With a sixth position in the driver championship, 1989 was also his best ever year in the sport. In 1990 Nannini suffered a horrific helicopter accident after which surgeons battled all night to save his arm. While the surgery was largely successful, it marked the end of Nannini's career at the top tier of Formula 1. Though he ran tests for Benetton and Ferrari, his racing career moved to German touring cars (DTM) where he won 14 times. Nannini is politically active and ran for mayor of Siena in 2011, though he lost to left wing candidate Franco Ceccuzzi by a big margin. His sister, Gianna, was a major Italian Pop/Rock star in the 1980s and 1990s.