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Alessandro Zanardi

23rd October 1966 (Age 54)
Castel Maggiore, Emilia Romagna
Most recent race (in database):

A Formula 1 career in which he flattered to deceive, double champion in the Champ Car World Series, or his inspirational comeback after having both of his legs amputated. Where do you start with the life of this remarkable and popular Italian?

Karting champion and early racing career

After landing the 1987 135cc Super A European Karting Championship with wins in all five rounds, Alex Zanardi graduated straight into the following year’s Italian Formula 3 Championship. Narrowly beaten to the 1990 title by Roberto Colciago, his RC Motorsport Dallara F390-Alfa Romeo then won the one-off race at Le Mans that decided that year’s European Champion.

Zanardi really emerged as a potential star driving a distinctive yellow and purple Reynard 91D-Mugen for the new Il Barone Rampante team in the 1991 FIA Formula 3000 Championship. He won twice (including on his debut at Vallelunga), never qualified outside the top four and finished as a close runner-up behind Christian Fittipaldi in the final points.

Original Formula 1 career

That form earned him three end-of-season Grands Prix in the 7Up Jordan 191-Ford in which Michael Schumacher had just made his stunning F1 debut. Without a regular ride for the following season, he tested for Benetton and stood-in for Minardi’s injured Fittipaldi in three mid-season events.

Zanardi was a fulltime F1 driver with Lotus in 1993. He finished sixth in Brazil on his second start for the team but progress was halted by a high-speed accident at Eau Rouge during practice for the Belgian GP. Zanardi was heavily concussed and although he returned to Lotus for the 1994 Spanish GP, he suffered a frustrating remainder of the season.

Champ Cars with Chip Ganassi Racing

With F1 aspirations apparently over, Zanardi defected to Champ Cars in 1996 after another period of relative inactivity. That move proved the making of the man and he enjoyed three highly successful seasons driving Chip Ganassi’s Target Reynard-Hondas. Championship victories in 1997 and 1998 put Zanardi back on F1’s radar once more.

F1 part two with Williams

He joined Williams for the 1999 F1 season but it was an unhappy move for all concerned. The Italian struggled with the underpowered Williams FW21-Supertec and soon fell out of favour with the team’s management. He did not score a point before being unceremoniously dumped at the end of the season. His reputation, in Europe at least, was somewhat tarnished.

Champ Car return and recovery from injury

Again Zanardi spent time away from racing before returning to Champ Cars in 2001 with Mo Nunn Racing. It was a year littered with contact and disappointment until the series travelled to Germany in September. His was an abrupt upturn in form at the Lausitzring and Zanardi led convincingly before a late "splash-and-dash" pitstop 13 laps from apparent victory. However, he spun exiting the pits and his Reynard 01I-Honda was T-boned by Alex Tagliani at almost 200mph. His car was almost cut in half and although doctors successfully saved his life they were forced to amputate his severely injured legs above the knees.

How Zanardi responded to his injuries was inspirational. Fitted with prosthetic limbs, he completed 13 symbolic laps at Lausitz in 2003 in a specially modified Champ Car and forged a successful career in the World Touring Car Championship from that season. His time with Roberto Ravaglia’s BMW team from 2005 to 2009 was interspersed with popular victories.

Paralympic gold medals and racing return

And he turned his attention to another sport to score perhaps his greatest victories. Having competed in the London and New York marathons as a wheelchair athlete, Zanardi represented Italy in the 2012 London Paralympic Games – winning two handcycling gold medals at Brands Hatch. He returned to the Paralympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and won a further two gold medals in the H5 category road cycling men's time trial and the mixed team relay as well as a silver in the road race.

Now 51-years-old, he made a guest appearance for BMW in the 2018 DTM races at Misano and finished fifth in race two. He returned in the Super GT x DTM Dream Races at Fuji in November 2019 – finishing 13th in the second race.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2018 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
2015 Blancpain Endurance Series 25th 4
2009 World Touring Car Championship
ROAL Motorsport
23 (1) 0 1 1
5% win rate
12th 31
2008 World Touring Car Championship
ROAL Motorsport
24 2 3 1
5% win rate
13th 36
2007 World Touring Car Championship
ROAL Motorsport
21 0 1 0
0% win rate
15th 14
2006 World Touring Car Championship
ROAL Motorsport
20 0 3 1
5% win rate
11th 26
2005 Italian SuperTurismo Championship 1st -
2005 World Touring Car Championship
17 (3) 3 2 1
6% win rate
10th 36
2004 European Touring Car Championship
BMW Team Italy-Spain (Ravaglia Motorsport)
20 0 0 0 14th 8
2003 European Touring Car Championship
BMW Team Italy-Spain (Ravaglia Motorsport)
2 0 0 0 21st 2
2001 FedEx Championship Series
Mo Nunn Racing
15 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
23rd 24
1999 F1 World Championship
Winfield Williams
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
1998 FedEx Championship Series
Chip Ganassi Racing Team
19 0 15 7
37% win rate
1st 285
1997 PPG CART World Series
Chip Ganassi Racing Team
16 (1) 4 7 5
32% win rate
1st 195
1996 PPG Indycar World Series
Chip Ganassi Racing Team
16 6 6 3
19% win rate
2nd 132
1994 F1 World Championship
Team Lotus
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
1993 F1 World Championship
Team Lotus
11 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
20th 1
1992 F1 World Championship
Minardi Team
1 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
1991 FIA International F3000 Championship
Il Barone Rampante
10 3 6 2
20% win rate
2nd 42
1991 F1 World Championship
Team 7Up Jordan
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
1990 European F3 Cup
RC Motorsport
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
1st 0
1990 Italian F3 Championship 2nd 35
1989 FIA International F3000 Championship
Automotor Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
1989 European F3 Cup
Erre 3 Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
1989 Italian F3 Championship 7th 13
1988 Italian F3 Championship 15th 2