The brief was simple. An email to all the journalists on Autocar: Pick your favourite racing driver of all time.
What we didn’t expect was quite the repertoire of answers that came back. Covering most eras and a vast spectrum of the sport – from F1 to club racing – it just goes to show how varied motorsport and its followers are.
For once, there are no wrong answers: It has led to many discussions and a fair amount of incredulity but, in the end, it’s all about personal choice.
Do you agree with us? Would you go for someone different? Let us know in the comments below.
Andrea de Cesaris
Why would you support the F1 driver who made the most race starts – 208 by the time his 15-year career petered out – without recording a single win?
Why too, follow a driver nicknamed De Crasheris, who James Hunt famously labelled an “idiot” during a typically uncompromising piece of commentary and who, quite frankly, at times used his mainly tobacco-based connections to buy drives others deserved more?
Partly, it’s timing: my love of Formula 1 ignited as a teenager around 1988, and peaked in the early to mid-1990s. As a result I missed Andrea’s fast-but-erratic years (including a pole position) and – let’s be honest – just erratic years, but turned up for his late-career redemption, sparked brilliantly by some heroic drives in the beautiful Jordan 191, in the team’s debut season of 1991.
But it helped too, obtuse, underdog-loving teen that I was, that I joined his fan club around this time, my tongue only remaining in my cheek for as long as it took to turn up to a get-together and discover the man himself there. Patient, charming, generous with his time… it was impossible not to warm to him, even if his – shall-we-say – Italian temperament was as evident then as it sometimes was in his driving.
There followed his tantalising brush with victory at Spa in 1991, plus some giant-killing runs with Tyrrell, Jordan (again) and Sauber, most notably in Monaco, where experience helped, but where also his talent in unrefined cars had a chance to shine. And, throughout, he would always make time to meet up with fans, a pants-on-fire driver trapped in a gentleman’s body.
As the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes. He may not have been the fastest ever, but my God he tried.