- December 23, 1956
- April 25, 2001
- Not Active
Michele Alboreto was a racing driver from Italy, best-known after his period in Formula 1 in which he was a vice-champion in 1985 while driving for Scuderia Ferrari. In total, he recorded 194 starts in the F1 World Championship between 1981 and 1994, winning five times.
Alboreto was also successful in the sports car racing. He participated eight times at 24 Hours of Le Mans, scoring an overall victory in 1997 with Joest Racing's TWR Porsche WSC-95.
Starting a racing career in a self-built car
He was born in Milan on December 23, 1956. Since he was a child, Alboreto was interested in racing and cars in general, and as a 20-year-old debuted in the world of racing, driving a car that he has created with his friends. The car they designed wasn’t competitive enough in its first year, but in 1977 Alboreto finished the season at the 3rd place.
Formula 3 results and Le Mans debut
Next year, he moved to the Italian Formula 3 series and after the first season during which he picked some experience, in 1979 Alboreto was the series runner-up. His talent and passion were on a very high level and that could be seen in 1980 when he claimed the European Formula 3 title, winning five races that year. At the same time, he became a member of Lancia’s endurance racing program, driving alongside Riccardo Patrese who already was an established Formula 1 racer. In 1981, Alboreto debuted in 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished 2nd in Group 5, driving Martini Racing’s Lancia alongside Eddie Cheever and Carlo Facetti.
F1 debut with Tyrrell
Formula 1 debut arrived probably a bit too early. In 1981, he was offered a drive for Tyrrell at Imola, but only for San Marino Grand Prix. Ken Tyrrell, the owner of the team, was so delighted with Alboreto’s performance that he decided to sign him for the rest of the season. The young Italian drove another 11 races that year, but without much success.
Alboreto remained with Tyrrell and in 1982 he raced much better. He scored his first points in the Brazilian Grand Prix and first podium at Imola before winning the last race of the season in Las Vegas. With impressive 25 points, Michele finished the season at the 8th place. Surprisingly, Alboreto stayed with Tyrrell for another year and again won one race, this time at Detroit. Interestingly, that was the last victory of Tyrrell in Formula 1. Alboreto finished 12th in the championship and soon got a call that no Italian could refuse.
Italian pride needs a driver from Italy
Enzo Ferrari always wanted to have an Italian driver in his team and Alboreto looked like a hot prospect, able to bring success to the team. His first season with Scuderia was marked by oscillations: Alboreto won the Belgian Grand Prix, finished 2nd in Italian and European Grand Prix, and he was 3rd in Austrian Grand Prix but retired from 8 out of 16 races. At the end of the year, Alboreto was 4th in the standings but the impression was that the result could have been better.
The season of 1985 was the best in Michele’s Formula 1 career. He finished as a vice-champion losing to Alain Prost. Alboreto won the races in Canada and Germany, finished 2nd in four races and once was 3rd. Just like the previous year, many felt that the Italian could do better knowing that he had failed to finish the last four Grands Prix of the season. However, that wasn’t Alboreto's fault. Ferrari engine failure in each of four races was the reason of retirement.
Departure from Scuderia
That was his last real chance to become a Formula 1 champion. After 1985, the Italian couldn’t win any Grands Prix. In 1986, he scored only one podium finish which caused a drop to the 9th position in the final standings. The following year was slightly better after Alboreto had three podiums to finish 7th in the standings, while in 1988, his final year with Ferrari and the year in which Enzo died, Michele was 5th after having three podiums.
He was replaced in Ferrari by Nigel Mansell and moved back to Tyrrell. He managed to finish 3rd in the Mexican Grand Prix but left the team in the middle of the season after a small debate with Ken Tyrrell about sponsorship. He moved to Larousse but couldn’t settle with a new car and the results were abysmal.
Alboreto often changed teams
Even worse was the year of 1991 when Alboreto signed with the Footwork team. In his first year with the team, the Italian finished only two out of 16 races, which wasn’t a surprise knowing that the team was in transition due to the process of purchasing the Arrows team. Luckily, the season of 1992 was much better. Already very experienced, Alboreto was able to regularly finish the races in top 10. He scored points in four races and finished the season at the 10th place.
That was probably the right moment for retirement but Alboreto continued his F1 journey. In 1993, he signed with a small Lola team but Michele couldn’t do much with a poor car. His best result was 11th place in two races and he finished the season empty-handed. Even that poor performance couldn’t stop the Italian veteran and he spent yet another season in Formula 1. In 1994, Alboreto drove for Minardi, another outsider team, but managed to collect one point in Monaco Grand Prix. That was the last race in which Alboreto scored before retiring from Formula 1.
Touring cars and endurance racing career
However, that wasn’t the end of Michele’s racing career. He switched to endurance and touring cars racing. He drove Alfa Romeo at the German Touring Car Championship and International Touring Car Championship. He also had a short spell in IndyCar Series, but without notable results in any competition.
Alboreto was more successful in endurance racing. Driving Joest Racing’s Porsche alongside Stefan Johansson and Tom Kristensen in 1997, Alboreto triumphed in 24 Hours of Le Mans while three years later he was 3rd driving Joest’s Audi with Christian Abt and Rinaldo Capello.
Alboreto was also a member of Audi teams that were competing in the American Le Mans Series and he won two major races. In 2000, the Italian won Petit Le Mans with Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello, while one year after he became the winner of 12 Hours of Sebring, driving with Capello and Laurent Aiello.
Fatal crash at Lausitzring
He was ready to continue his career but on 25th of April 2001, Alboreto was killed in a crash. He was testing Audi R8 at Lausitzring but a tyre blew at a high-speed, causing the poor driver to lose control of the car that hit the wall, killing him instantly. That was a really sad ending for one of the warmest men in the history of motorsports. Michele Alboreto was buried in Basiglio, in Italy.
Video : Tribute to Alboreto
Photos: alchetron.com, flickr.com, f1ferrari.hu, tumblr.com, taringa.net, diariomotor.com, motoridacorsa.com.