PhilippeStreiff is a former racing driver from France who was forced to retire from the motorsports after being left quadriplegic. Prior to his career-ending accident during the pre-season F1 test in 1989, Streiff recorded 53 starts in the Formula 1 World Championship with four different teams, scoring one podium.
Late start of the career
He was born in June 1955 in La Tronche, in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region in France. He studied at the National School of Arts and Trades of Aix-en-Provence and was a big motorsport enthusiast since his childhood but started to compete relatively late, in 1976. In the following year, he attended racing school at Nogaro circuit while in 1978 entered French Formula Renault series and scored his maiden win at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Competing in the Formula 3 Championship
The next stop was European Formula 3 in 1980 in which he won the last race of the season at Zolder circuit. In 1980, Streiff returned to France to win the national Formula 3 title while in the European Formula 3 Championship he was 4th overall. However, the highlight of 1981 was the 2nd place in 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was driving for Jean Rondeau alongside Jack Haran and Jean-Louis Schlesser.
Solid results in the European Formula 2
In 1982, Streiff debuted in the European Formula 2 Championship as a pilot of Motul GPA team. Even after he was forced to retire from 6 out of 13 races, the French pilot earned a respectable number of points and finished 6th in the Championship. The following season in the same series was slightly better. Driving for Ecurie Armagnac Bigorre, finished the season at the 4th position after he has scored four podiums. Finally, in 1984, as a driver of Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives, he managed to take his first (and last) Formula 2 victory, in the final race of the campaign at Brands Hatch. He had other three podium finishes that season but still couldn’t move into the Top 3 overall, so he again had to settle for 4th place.
Formula 1 debut with Renault
Le Mans 24h vice-champion
The same year Streiff again had a podium finish in 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving Porsche 956B with Sarel van der Merwe and David Hobbs, he was 3rd. Interestingly, Porsche took positions 1-7 at Le Mans in 1984 and had eight cars in Top 10. Philippe also debuted in Formula 1 in 1984 driving for Renault Elf at the maiden Grand Prix of Portugal, but couldn’t finish the race. That was the final race of the season and Gerard Larrousse, the manager of the team, wanted to thank him for two years spent as a test driver at Renault in 1983 and 1984.
1984 Le Mans runner-up
Streiff earned his only F1 podium finish in Australia
Formula 2 Championship was replaced with Formula 3000 in 1985. Anyway, he remained a member of AGS but that season wasn’t too successful as he finished 8th in the standings. In mid-season, thanks to the support of the Group Blanchet Locatop, he joined Ligier F1 team as a substitute for Andrea de Cesaris. Driving in four races, Streiff surprised in the last one in Australia, where he finished 3rd, behind Keke Rosberg and his teammate Jacques Laffite.
Driving a Ligier car in 1985
Philippe Streiff spent two years with Tyrrell
In 1986, for the first time in his career, Streiff was hired as a full-time Formula 1 driver. The Frenchman was hired by Tyrrell team as a substitute for Stefan Bellof who was killed in a crash at Spa. The first season with the new squad wasn’t glorious one but still managed to score points in two races, with 5th position in Australia as the season highlight. He stayed with Tyrrell in 1987 and again earned points in two races, finishing 6th in France and 4th in Germany.
Driving a Tyrrell in 1986
For the season of 1988, he returned to AGS after the team entered to Formula 1 world. Unfortunately, a car was slow and unreliable so the Frenchman couldn’t earn a single point. However, he decided to stay with the AGS for another year but tragedy had happened and was forced to finish his career.
Horrible crash in Brazil
On 15th of March 1989, during pre-season testing at Jacarepagua circuit in Brazil, Streiff crashed heavily. The crash was so horrible that even the roll-bar was broken on impact. He was stuck in a car and after he was rescued was left quadriplegic. Brazilian rescue workers were accused of aggravating injuries of the poor racer by snatching the car and then by not installing a vacuum mattress. The lessons learned from this intervention have subsequently improved the treatment of injured drivers.
Video - Horrible crash in Brazil
Still involved in motorsports
Streiff was resolute to stay in the motorsports, despite being quadriplegic. Starting in 1993 and for several years he organized a karting competition at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy pitting the world’s best drivers. The inaugural race was the last duel between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The event was revived in 2011 with the first electric kart race.
With Lewis Hamilton
In 2002, Philippe Streiff became an advisor to the interministerial delegation to the disabled, under the Ministry of Health. In 2007 he was appointed a technical advisor to the Ministry of Transport, in the Directorate of Security and Road Traffic (DSCR). He also leads a mission to the sub-direction of traffic education of the DSCR, to educate young people about driving and road safety.