Ricardo Zunino is a former racing driver from Argentina who recorded ten starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1979 and 1981, driving for Brabham and Tyrrell.
Starting a career in 1969, moving to Europe in 1977
Born in April 1949 in San Juan, near the Argentinean-Chilean border, as a son of a farmer, Ricardo Zunino started his racing career in 1969 in the national sports car and touring car races.
He was Argentinean touring car champion in Class C in 1975 and 1976, driving a Fiat 125 or Fiat 125 Coupe. After that success, he decided to move to Europe in 1977.
Ricardo Zunino made ten F1 Championship starts between 1979 and 1981
Two and a half seasons in Formula 2
In Europe, Zunino was competing in the European Formula 2 Championship, driving a March-Hart for AFMP Euroracing. In twelve races, he scored one single point by finishing sixth at Pau Grand Prix.
Zunino improved his results in 1978, driving a March-BMW and scoring points in five races. He ended a season 11th in the final classification. In 1979, Zunino stayed in the Formula 2 for just four races, driving for Polifac BMW Junior Team, but then he switched to the British Formula One Championship.
One victory and three podiums in the British Formula 1
Zunino made a debut in the 1979 British Formula 1 Championship in the fifth round at Thruxton, finishing fifth in BS Fabrications McLaren M23-Cosworth. In the next race, at Zandvoort, he moved to Arrows A1-Cosworth and stayed in that car until the end of the season, driving for Charles Clowes Racing.
Race by race, Zunino was improving, scoring four podiums in the last four races, including a victory at Brands Hatch. He finished sixth in the final standings.
Zunino made an F1 World Championship debut in the #5 Brabham BT49
Unexpected debut in the Formula One World Championship
During the year, Zunino has some tests with Brabham's F1 team and he was planning to enter the Formula 1 World Championship as soon as possible. In September 1979, he unexpectedly had a chance to made his dream true.
He attended the Canadian Grand Prix as a spectator when he was invited by Brabham's Parmalat Racing Team to replace Niki Lauda who suddenly left the team two races before the end of the season. Zunino was driving the #5 Brabham BT49-Cosworth at Circuit Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal and he nearly missed to score a point, finishing in the seventh place. A week later, Zunino retired in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.
Zunino's F1 car in 1980 was the #6 Brabham BT49 (Cosworth)
Six F1 starts and one DNQ with Brabham in 1980
Parmalat Racing Team retained Zunino in 1980. His teammate was Nelson Piquet. Zunino's results in the #6 Brabham BT49-Cosworth were under the expectations. He was seventh in his home Grand Prix at the Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 8th in Brazil and 10th in South Africa.
After that, he retired in three races and failed to qualify for Monaco Grand Prix. After seven rounds, Zunino was replaced by Hector Rebaque.
Zunino made two starts in the #4 Tyrrell in 1981
Two last F1 starts with Tyrrell in 1981
Zunino rejoined Brabham at the 1981 South African Grand Prix in February 1981. It was the non-championship race due to the ongoing FISA/FOCA war. He finished in the eighth place.
In March, Zunino joined Tyrrell for the Brazilian Grand Prix, finishing 13th in the #4 Tyrrell 010-Cosworth. Two weeks later, he achieved the same result in the Argentine Grand Prix. It turned to be not only his last F1 start but also his last race in a career.
One-off rally attempt in the Argentinean WRC round
Zunino stayed without sponsorship deals when Argentina and England started a war for Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.That interrupted his season and he never returned to racing.
He made one attempt in rallying, participating in Rally Codasur, the Argentinean WRC round, in July 1981. He was driving a Datsun 160J, not finishing the rally.