On This Day: Ronnie & Ricardo, Mansell to Minardi and other tales

The 14th day of February has been a busy day in the annals of Formula 1 history. Two drivers would have celebrated their birthdays today had they not been stolen from us too soon.

The original SuperSwede Ronnie Peterson – who many regard as one of the most naturally gifted racing drivers of all time – was born on this day in 1944.

Although he was denied a world title he was runner-up twice, the final time abiding to a gentlemen’s agreement with Colin Chapman to allow Mario Andretti to win the 1978 championship.

Before the year was over, with three rounds to go – at Monza – the Lotus of Peterson was involved in a first-lap multiple-car melee which resulted in 27 fractures to his legs but the Sid Watkins led medical team did not perceive the injuries top be life-threatening.

However Peterson’s condition worsened in hospital where he was diagnosed with fat embolism which rapidly turned to full renal failure. He died at 9:55am on 11 September 1978.

Also born on this day in 1942, was Ricardo Rodriguez, a prodigious talent, the Max Verstappen of his day one could say. He remains the youngest driver to ever race for Ferrari when il Commendatore signed him up to drive for the Reds at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix.

The Mexican was merely 19-years-old at a time when many drivers only started racing at that age while others raced into their late thirties and forties.

He was a sensation from the moment he sat in the iconic Ferrari 156 and put the car on the front row of the grid, beating F1 championship leader and teammate Wolfgang von Trips in the sister car. The teenager even challenged veterans Phil Hill and Richie Ginther for the lead during the race but a fuel pump failure ended the fairytale debut.

He was killed a year later in an accident during his home Mexican Grand Prix at the wheel of a Rob Walker entered Lotus 24.


In 1997, the Spice Girls and Jamiroquai performed at the unveiling of McLaren’s F1 car for that year during a lavish event at Alexandra Palace in London.

It was also the car that ended the Marlboro livery made so famous for nearly three decades and replaced with the silver and grey of West cigarettes. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were the drivers.

In 1997 Peugeot chief Jacques Calvet agreed a deal for his company to supply F1 engines top Alain Prost’s team for 1998 onwards. The French manufacturer agreed to supply V10 engines for three years to the French four-time world champion’s ill-fated project in the top flight.

In what turned out to be a publicity stunt, 18 years ago, Nigel Mansell announced another comeback… with Minardi, which kicked off a media frenzy of speculation that the British F1 World Champion would team up with Fernando Alonso in the Paul Stoddart owned team.

But in the end, it was a deal for Mansell to drive the team’s F1 two-seater at a promo event at Donington Park where he proceeded to trash the car and nearly kill Alonso!

Last year these were the main headlines on our site:

Launch season was in full swing with the spillover of Racing Point’s arrival on the scene as part of the Stroll family business still raking in the headlines amid the launch of McLaren’s MCL34.

Looking back the positivity that abounded was contagious when Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence bought him a F1 team by saving the scraps of Force India and turning it into Racing Point. But success did not match the expectations as the Silverstone base produced a dud of a car, as they did with the second one they built halfway through the season.

So Stroll senior bought a chunk of Aston Martin to ease the pain, as billionaires do apparently.

Mclaren MCL34 first photos 14-Feb-19 1-17-54 PM

In contrast, McLaren and their fans waited in trepidation as they launched their 2019 car with an all-new driver line-up, in Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris. It turned out to be a good year for Woking after several forgettable ones.

Andreas Seidl’s arrival to steady the F1 ship was a masterstroke by CEO Zak Brown, and a year ago we got a whiff of what was in store, namely a revival of sorts for the once-mighty team.

Also of note was a ‘leaked’ photo of the 2019 Alfa Romeo sporting a striking test livery as the team gave their new car a shakedown at Fiorano with veteran Kimi Raikkonen on duty.