Remembering Elio de Angelis

Elio de Angelis

Elio de Angelis drives the Brabham BT55 at the 1986 Monaco GP

Elio de Angelis was an Italian Formula 1 driver who raced between 1979 and 1986, for teams including Shadow, Lotus  and Brabham. On 15 May 1986 he was killed during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet.

De Angelis was a competitive and highly popular presence in F1 during the 1980s, and is sometimes referred to as Formula 1′s “last gentleman player” and was also a concert-standard pianist.

His debut F1 season was in 1979 with Shadow. He finished 7th in his maiden grand prix, in Argentina  and closed the championship in  15th,with 3 points. In 1980 he switched to Lotus  and – at the age of 21 – nearly became the youngest grand prix winner of all time when he finished a tantalising second at the 1980 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. His first victory came in the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix at the Osterreichring, only 0.05 seconds ahead of Keke Rosberg – the closest F1 finish ever recorded.

Elio de Angelis

Elio de Angelis

In 1983 Lotus switched from Cosworth to Renault turbo engines but it was a disappointing season. De Angelis’ best result was a fifth place in the 1983 Italian Grand Prix. In 1984 De Angelis had a much better season, scoring a total of 34 points and finishing third in the standings. His best result was a second place at the Detroit Grand Prix.

De Angelis’ second win came in the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix. He finished 5th in the championship with 33 points but left Lotus at the end of the season when it became clear the team’s efforts were being focused on his talented new team-mate Ayrton Senna. De Angelis’ drive for 1986 was with Brabham as a replacement for two time world champion Nelson Piquet with Riccardo Patrese as team-mate.

The 1986 Brabham-BMW, the BT55, was a radically-designed car, with a very low cross section. However, it was not effective and could not arrest Brabham’s swift decline. It quickly became clear that 1986 would not be the year the team recaptured its glory days of the early 1980s. Nevertheless, de Angelis pushed his hardest to help develop the car.

Elio de Angelis (Lotus 91) punches the air in delight as he wins his first Grand Prix in Austria in 1982  with. Keke Rosberg (Williams FW08) was second by only five hundredths of a second in one of the closest finishes in F1 history

Elio de Angelis (Lotus 91) punches the air in delight as he takes his first GP victory, in Austria, 1982. Keke Rosberg (Williams FW08) classifiess second in one of the closest finishes in F1 history

During tests at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, the rear wing of his BT55 detached at high speed resulting in the car losing downforce over the rear wheels, which instigated a cartwheel over a trackside barrier, causing the car to catch fire. The impact itself did not kill de Angelis but he was unable to extract himself from the car unassisted.

The situation was exacerbated by the lack of track marshals on the circuit who could provide him with emergency assistance. A 30 minute delay ensued before a helicopter arrived and De Angelis died 29 hours later, in a hospital in Marseille from smoke inhalation. His actual crash injuries were only a broken collar bone and light burns on his back.

The tragic circumstances of his death weighed heavily on the sport’s conscience and radical changes were introduced by then President Jean-Marie Balestre in the months following his accident which ultimately brought about the end of the turbo powered era in F1 racing.

Below is a selection of images of Elio de Angelis in F1 sourced from the Sutton archives. (GP247)

Subbed by AJN.

Elio de Angelis drives the Shadow DN9 during the 1979 Dutch GP at Zandvoort,

Elio de Angelis drives the Shadow DN9 during the 1979 Dutch GP at Zandvoort,

Formula One World Championship

de Angelis leads Manfred Winkelhock at the 1983 French GP at Paul Ricard

Formula One World Championship

In the Lotus 94T during the 1983 British GP

Formula One World Championship

He finished third in the 1985 Monaco GP

Formula One World Championship

During the 1984 Belgian GP at Zolder

Formula One World Championship

In the Lotus 87 during the 1981 Italian GP at Monza

Formula One World Championship

Elio de Angelis drives the Lotus 91 during the 1982 Monaco GP

Formula One World Championship

With Lotus boss Colin Chapman

1983 Lotus team mates Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis

1983 Lotus team mates Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis

1985 Lotus teammates Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis

1985 Lotus teammates Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis

Elio de Angelis won the 1982 Austrian GP at Osterriechring

He won the 1982 Austrian GP at Osterriechring

Elio de Angelis drove his final race at the 1986 Monaco GP at the wheel of the Brabham BT55

His final race – the 1986 Monaco GP, at the wheel of the Brabham BT55

  • Richard Piers

    Remembered with sadness. Yet another damn fool accident caused by aerodynamics !

  • McLarenfan

    I saw Elio drive the Lotus in the UK he made it look so easy to drive RIP

  • Tamburello_1994

    Looks like a pretty interesting conversation between him and Nigel. . . . . .

    Great tribute. Thanks Gpx247.

  • petes

    That was a very decent tribute, indeed. thank you!

  • real LOTUS is the GREEN one

    I was at his funeral. RIP

  • sylvia rousseau

    Being a race marshall, I meet him in Montréal in 1983, he was a real gentleman.
    Still missing him.