IvanCapelli is an Italian racing driver who raced in the Formula One World Championship between 1985 and 1993, recording 98 entries (93 starts) and three podiums. He raced the most with Leyton House team but also spent one season with Scuderia Ferrari.
Capelli is still active in GT racing competitions.
Ivan Capelli in his old Leyton House March
Italian and European Formula 3 champion early in a career
Born in may 1963 in Milan, Ivan Franco Capelli started his career at the age of 15 in karting competitions. After four years, he moved to Italian Formula 3 Championship, driving for March team. He won the title at the first attempt after dominant displays and nine race wins.
After a successful season, in 1984, Ivan moved to European Formula 3 Championship, driving for Coloni team. The winning streak continued and Italian again became the champion, after controversy with one of the team’s airboxes that were illegal.
Ivan Capelli's F3000 car 1986
Capelli won International Formula 3000 title in 1986
The next challenge was International Formula 3000 Championship in which he spent two years, driving for Genoa Racing. The start of the 1985 season was pretty bad after Capelli retired from four races, but at a later stage he won the race at Osterreichring and finished 3rd at Donington which was a kind of announcement of what is going to happen in the next season.
In 1986, Italian driver won the F3000 title, even after he retired from four out of 11 races. However, Capelli won two races, at Vallelunga and again at Osterreichring, had other four podium finishes, which was enough to clinch the title in front of some well-known names like Emanuele Pirro, Pierluigi Martini, Philippe Alliot, Satoru Nakajima and Gabriele Tarquini.
Ivan Capelli debuted in Formula One in the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch
Unexpected Formula 1 debut with Tyrrell
During two years he spent in Formula 3000, Ivan also had an opportunity to taste racing in Formula 1. He debuted at the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, replacing Stefan Bellof in one of the Tyrrells, but retired from the race. In the season-closing race in Australia, Capelli surprised many because he finished in 4th place. In 1986, he started in two F1 races driving for AGS team but failed to finish on both occasions.
Capelli was considered as one of the brightest talents
In 1987, Capelli drove full Formula 1 season as a member of Leyton House March team. The small team couldn’t afford a highly competitive car but Ivan managed to pick a point at Monaco Grand Prix by finishing 6th. The season of 1988 was much better. Adrian Newey, who later made his name in Formula 1, designed a new car which proved to be a very good one. Capelli finished in points in a couple of races but also had two podiums. In Belgium, he was 3rd while in Portugal he finished 2nd, losing to Alain Prost.
1987 British Grand Prix, Capelli in March 871
He could have fine F1 career
After a pretty good season, many considered him as the future star and they were predicting that it is only matter of time when Capelli will become a driver of some of the leading teams. Unfortunately, he stayed with March team for another three years and only occasionally managed to remind people what he was capable of.
The season of 1989 was disastrous because Capelli was able to finish only two races. The following year was slightly better but still far from good, even though he finished 2nd at the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard, again losing to Prost. Finally, in 1991, Ivan Capelli again struggled a lot, mainly because of the unreliable car, and again finished in points only once, finishing 6th at Hungaroring.
Ivan Capelli was very popular among the Formula 1 drivers
Move to Ferrari was a turning point
Probably a bit surprisingly, Capelli signed with Ferrari in 1992 and the future looked bright. Scuderia had a new car, the expectations were high but it turned out that expectations were unrealistic. Capelli was so disappointed with the relations within the team and the car, that he earned points only twice and left the team two races before the end of the year. It was a great pity because Ivan hoped that he will be able to show that he was driving for the most popular team.
His enthusiasm and motivation decreased a lot after being disappointed with Ferrari. However, he signed with Jordan for 1993 campaign but cooperation did not last for long. After failing to qualify for the second race of the season in Brazil, Capelli decided to leave the team and to end his Formula 1 career.
Ivan Capelli, Ferrari, 1992 Italian Grand Prix
Last try and quick retirement from Formula 1
The disappointment was huge. Capelli knew he was able to achieve bigger things but couldn’t meet the expectations, not only by his fault. Jordan tried to persuade Italian to change his mind, but it was too late. Ivan felt like he wasn’t able to meet the demands and decided to give his full attention to other racing categories.
He competed in different touring car championships in the following year, such are ADAC Super Tourenwagen Cup or Spanish Touring Car Championship. In 1995, he made his only attempt at 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a Honda NSX GT1 for Honda's factory team. He was sharing car with Armin Hahne and Bertrand Gachot, not finishing the race.
Ivan Capelli in 2007
Racing in Australia in recent years
During the 2000s, Capelli occasionally competed in GT races all over the world, from Italy to Australia. He continued with similar activities in the 2010s. Most recently, he joined Trofeo Motorsport as a guest driver in the Australian GT Championship and also in the Bathurst 12 Hour race.
In 2017, he finished 10th overall and third in Am class at Bathurst 12 Hour in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3. In 2018, again in a Lamborghini, he finished 8th overall and fourth in Pro-Am class at Bathurst 12 Hour.