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Karl Wendlinger

20th December 1968 (Age 51)
Kufstein, Tyrol
Most recent race (in database):

A third-generation racing driver, Karl Wendlinger was one of three youngsters chosen by Mercedes-Benz as stars of the future. Like Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Wendlinger graduated to Formula 1 but his promising Grand Prix career was cut short when he failed to recover his form after serious injury.

Early racing career

With help from family friend Gerhard Berger, Wendlinger raced in Formula Ford from 1987. Winner of the minor Austrian Fla 3 Championship in 1988, he drove Helmut Marko’s Ralt RT33-Alfa Romeo to two victories in the following year’s German series. Those included at Avus when running without a rear wing to maximize his straightline speed. He beat Schumacher and Frentzen by a point to win the German title.

Sports cars with Mercedes-Benz

The youngsters took turns sharing a Sauber-Mercedes with veteran Jochen Mass during the 1990 World Sportscar Championship. Wendlinger’s four starts yielded second place finishes at Suzuka and Monza and victory at Spa-Francorchamps. He then shared a Mercedes C291 with Schumacher in 1991 and they won the final round at Autopolis.

Wendlinger also raced for RSM Marko in Formula 3000 when his sports car commitments allowed. Inconsistent during 1990, he impressed a year later by always qualifying in the top 10 and finishing third at Hockenheim after his only front row start.

Formula 1 with March and Sauber

He ended 1991 by making his GP debut with a Leyton House March CG911-Ilmor in the final two races and did enough to retain his seat for 1992. A fine seventh on the grid for the opening race in South Africa, the highlight was his fourth place finish in the Canadian GP.

He switched to Sauber for 1993 and consistently qualified in the top 10 at the start of the year. Fourth place at Monza was one of four points scores and he matched that result in the tragic 1994 San Marino GP at Imola. However, he crashed at the chicane while practising for the next race in Monaco. Wendlinger suffered life threatening head injuries and was in a coma for three weeks as doctors tried to reduce the swelling on his brain. He eventually made a full recovery and returned to Sauber for six races in 1995. However, he had lost his competitive edge and they proved to be the final GPs of his career.

Return to endurance racing

He made a successful switch to endurance racing and finished third overall on his Le Mans debut in 1996 with the works Porsche 911 GT1 he shared with Yannick Dalmas and Scott Goodyear.

Wendlinger’s career was back in the ascendancy when he joined ORECA to drive a works-backed Chrysler Viper GTS-R in the FIA GT Championship. Third in 1998, he won the 1999 title with regular partner Olivier Beretta. They also finished third in the American Le Mans Series GTS class that year before dominating in 2000. They won the Daytona 24 Hours outright and shared nine class wins in the ALMS with Beretta narrowly ahead in the standings thanks to his greater number of fastest laps.

Fourth in the 2001 Le Mans 24 Hours with an LMP900 Chrysler prototype, two disappointing years in DTM with Abt Sportsline’s Audi TT-R followed with fifth at Donington Park in 2002 his best result.

He returned to the FIA GT Championship in 2004 with JMB Racing. Wendlinger and co-driver Andrea Bertolini entered the final round of 2005 with a one point lead in the standings but they dropped to third after retiring their Maserati MC12 early in Bahrain.

Wendlinger drove a RaceAlliance Racing Aston Martin DBR9 for the next three seasons, winning each year and finishing as runner-up in 2007 with new co-driver Ryan Sharp. They switched to a K plus K Motorsport Saleen S7R-Ford for 2009 and won the opening round at Silverstone. Another victory at the Hungaroring was lost in post-race scrutineering after which the team withdrew.

The Austrian continued to compete in the national GT championships until 2016. He has since worked as a television commentator and as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2012 Blancpain Endurance Series 16th 21
2011 FIA GT1 World Championship 26th 31
2010 FIA GT1 World Championship 54th 2
2009 FIA GT Championship
K plus K Motorsport
1 0 1 1 18th 10
2008 FIA GT Championship
Jetalliance Racing
3 2 3 3 9th 44
2007 FIA GT Championship
Jetalliance Racing
3 0 3 3 2nd 57
2006 FIA GT Championship
Race Alliance
1 0 1 1 14th 32.5
2005 FIA GT Championship
JMB Racing
1 0 1 1 4th 71
2004 FIA GT Championship
JMB Racing
1 0 1 1 8th 50.5
2003 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Abt Sportsline
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
16th 1
2002 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Abt Sportsline
9 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 3
2000 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series
Viper Team ORECA
1 0 1 1 0
1999 FIA GT Championship
Viper Team ORECA
6 2 6 6 1st 78
1995 F1 World Championship
Red Bull Sauber Ford
6 0 0 0
0% win rate
1994 F1 World Championship
Broker Sauber Mercedes
3 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
18th 4
1993 F1 World Championship
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 7
1992 World Sportscar Championship
Peugeot Talbot Sport
1 0 0 0 0
1992 F1 World Championship
March F1
14 0 0 0
0% win rate
12th 3
1991 World Sportscar Championship
Team Sauber Mercedes
8 0 2 1 9th 43
1991 FIA International F3000 Championship
RSM Marko
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 6
1991 F1 World Championship
Leyton House Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1990 FIA International F3000 Championship
RSM Marko
6 (3) 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 2
1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Team Sauber Mercedes
4 0 3 1 5th 21
1990 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
AMG Mercedes
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
1989 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
RSM Marko
17 0 0 0
0% win rate
30th 20
1989 German F3 Championship 1st 164
1988 German F3 Championship 11th 69
1988 Austrian F3 Championship 1st -