- June 11, 1964
- Not Active
Jean Alesi is one of the many former Formula 1 drivers from France. Although he was not particularly successful as F1 driver, his popularity was quite large.
He recorded 201 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1989 and 2001, scoring one victory (1995 Canadian Grand Prix) and 32 podiums. Before making a name in Formula 1, he was the International Formula 3000 champion in 1989. In the post-F1 career, he spent five seasons in DTM with Mercedes, winning five races.
Passionate rally racing fan
He was born in Avignon in June 1964, to the family of Italian origin. In his teenage years, Alesi was a passionate rally racing fan but at the age of 16, he started to race in karting. In 1984, Alesi moved to single seaters and had very good results competing in French Formula Renault and French Formula 3 Championship in which he became a champion in 1987.
The next station was International Formula 3000 in which he won the title in 1989 driving for Eddie Jordan's team and debuted at 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Porsche 962C for Team Schuppan, but his team was forced to retire after a car went on fire.
Stunning Formula 1 debut with Tyrrell
But, the most important thing in 1989 was Alesi’s unexpected debut in Formula 1. Tyrrell team offered him to replace Michele Alboreto in the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard and Jean did above the expectations. He was running 2nd at some point of the race, eventually finishing 4th. Ken Tyrrell was delighted with a novice and immediately offered him a contract for one and a half season. Driving in seven more races in his first year, Alesi scored points in Italy and Spain to finish 9th in the championship.
The start of Jean’s second year with Tyrrell was almost perfect. In the season-opening race in the US, he was 2nd losing to Ayrton Senna by 8.685s. The future looked bright despite the fact that team was in financial troubles. Until the end of the year, Alesi scored points only twice - at Imola where he was 6th and in Monaco, where he again took 2nd place losing to Senna by 1.086s. With 13 points on his account, Alesi repeated result from the previous season - 9th position.
Signing with Ferrari was a dream come true and peak of Jean's career
In 1991 Jean Alesi’s dream became a reality after he signed a contract with Ferrari. Previously, he signed a contract with Williams what caused a dispute between the two teams. The things were resolved when Scuderia paid $4 million as a compensation.
The first year with a most popular Formula 1 team has not been perfect. Driving alongside his compatriot Alain Prost, Alesi earned three podiums, in Monaco, Germany and Portugal, scored points in four more Grand Prix races to finish 7th overall. However, Prost’s form was below his reputation and Ferrari was behind McLaren and Williams in the Constructors’ championship what was rated as a big failure.
Two hard years without notable results with Scuderia
The season of 1992 Alesi again finished at 7th place in the championship. He retired from 10 out of 16 events that year but finished third at Spanish and Canadian Grand Prix. Both Ferrari cars from that year proved to be unreliable, so it wasn't surprising that the team finished 4th with only 21 points, 18 of which were won by Alesi.
The situation has not improved in 1993. The Ferrari 93 A model was unreliable and slow, so Alesi was thinking about leaving the team in mid-season. The Frenchman managed to finish only 7 out of 16 races that year with a 2nd place in Italy and 3rd in Monaco as the highlights. Paradoxically, Alesi progressed in the overall standings after he has finished 6th with only 16 points.
Alesi scored his only Formula 1 win at Canadian Grand Prix
In 1994, Ferrari had more competitive cars and Alesi had an excellent start of the year. He was third in Brazil at the season opener but missed following two rounds because of the back injury. When he returned behind the wheel, scored two podiums in the next five races. Later in the season he had pole position at Monza but retired in the race due to gearbox trouble. Jean had another three retirements before the end of the year while the 3rd position in Japan in the penultimate race of the year was enough to launch Alesi to the 5th position in the Drivers’ championship.
The same position Alesi won in 1995 but managed to score his sole win in the Formula 1 career. At Canadian Grand Prix, on his 31st birthday, Alesi profited from the failure of Michael Schumacher’s car and won his only race. That triumph ended his run of 67 races without a victory what was the longest streak for any driver in Ferrari’s history. That inglorious record was later exceeded by Felipe Massa in 2013.
Video - Alesi's one and only Formula 1 victory
During the 1995 season, Alesi had more notable results. He finished 2nd on four occasions, scored points in four more races to again finish 5th in the championship. At the same time, that was Alesi’s last year with the ’Prancing pony’. Interestingly, in his last race with Ferrari in Australia, he crashed into the Michael Schumacher, then a pilot of Benetton team, but the two swapped teams before the start of the new campaign.
Unfulfilled expectations with Benetton and languishing with Sauber
Benetton was reigning champion in the Constructors’ championship but wasn’t too convincing during 1996. Anyway, Alesi had one of his best years after he has finished 4th overall. Eight podium finishes and scored points in three more races what was very solid achievement. The same result Alesi scored in 1997. He was 4th in the standings even after the race results weren’t as good as in the year before.
Jean’s reputation failed after two seasons with Benetton. He failed to win a single race despite having a very competitive car, so it wasn’t surprising when the team decided not to renew the contract with Alesi. Luckily, he was offered a drive with Sauber for two years, but it was clear that his career started to go downward.
During 1998 Alesi had few good performances, finished 11th in the championship with 3rd place at Spa as a highlight, but the following year was a complete disaster. Alesi retired from half of the races and scored only two points to finish 16th overall what was inglorious end of cooperation with Sauber.
Prost team was the next station while Jordan was the last stop
In 2000 Alesi joined Prost team, owned by his former teammate Alain Prost, but it was another disappointing season. A car was slow and unreliable, so Jean managed to finish only five races, without scoring a point.
The situation has slightly improved in 2001 when Prost cars were more reliable but still not fast enough. However, Alesi earned points in three times but left the team after German Grand Prix after having a dispute with team officials. Alesi joined Jordan-Honda team for the last five races that year and scored a point in Belgium.
At the end of the season, Jean decided to retire from Formula 1 after 202 races, 1 victory, 32 podiums, two pole positions, and 241 points on his account. Retirement from the Formula 1 wasn’t the end of Alesi’s career as he switched to touring cars racing in DTM series.
Five solid seasons in DTM
The Frenchman spent five years in the popular German series driving for Mercedes and did pretty well. In his first year in the series, Alesi won two races, both at Donington Park, and finished 5th in the championship. The same results he achieved in 2003. Alesi again won the race at Donington, later won at Hockenheim to eventually finish 5th in the standings.
In 2004, Alesi slightly declined after he failed to win a race and dropped to 7th place but he broke the winless streak at the start of 2005 when he was fastest at Hockenheim what was his last win in DTM series. The Frenchman finished 7th in the championship that year while in 2006 he was 9th.
Stints in Asia and Le Mans Series
Basically, that was almost the end of Alesi’s professional racing career even after he has competed in the various series. In 2008 and 2009 he has competed alongside many other retired F1 drivers in the Asian Speedcar Series. In 2010 the Frenchman drove in GT2 class of Le Mans Series for Ferrari’s AF Corse team. Alongside Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, Alesi finished the season as a vice-champion.
Nowhere like at home
Finally, in 2012 Jean Alesi retired from racing. Now he had more time to work as Pirelli ambassador and to enjoy in wines from his vineyard in Avignon, with his wife, former Japanese actress Kumiko Goto and their four children.