Wednesday, December 3, 2008

French F1 Drivers, Jean Alesi


Jean Alesi (born Giovanni Alesi June 11, 1964) is a French racing driver of Italian origins. His Formula One career included spells at Tyrrell, Benetton, Sauber, Prost, Jordan and most notably Ferrari where he proved very popular among the tifosi.

Alesi was born to Sicilian parents in Avignon, Vaucluse.
Starting his career with a passion for rallying rather than racing, he graduated to single seaters through the French Renault 5 championship. In the late 1980s he was very much a coming man in motor racing, winning the 1987 French Formula 3 title before moving up to International Formula 3000 in 1988.

In 1989, his second season in International F3000, he won the championship. Both crowns were after duels with his rival Érik Comas. In 1989 Alesi tied on points for the F3000 title with Comas but won on the basis of better points finishes.

Alesi debuted in the 1989 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in a Tyrrell-Cosworth, finishing fourth. He drove most of the rest of the season for Tyrrell while continuing his successful Formula 3000 campaign, (occasionally giving the car up in favour of Johnny Herbert when Formula 3000 clashed), scoring points again at the Italian and Spanish Grands Prix.
1990 was his first full year in Grand Prix racing, with the underfunded Tyrrell team. At the first event, the United States Grand Prix at Phoenix, he was a sensation, leading for 25 laps in front of Ayrton Senna with a car considered as inferior, and also re-passing Senna after the Brazilian had first overtaken for the lead.

Second place in the Monaco Grand Prix followed the second place gained in Phoenix, and by mid-season, top teams were clamouring for his services in 1991. A very confused situation erupted, with Tyrrell, Williams, and Ferrari all claiming to have signed the driver within a very short period.

Jean Alesi took his only Grand Prix win at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
Ferrari were championship contenders at the time, and there he would be driving with fellow countryman Alain Prost, at that time the most successful driver in Formula One history. Alesi signed with Ferrari, making the choice that not only appeared to maximize his chances for winning the championship and for learning from an experienced and successful teammate, but that fulfilled his childhood dream of driving for the Italian team.

Ferrari, however, experienced a disastrous downturn in form in 1991, while the Williams team experienced a resurgence which would lead them to win five constructor's titles between 1992 and 1997. Alesi's choice of Ferrari over Williams seemed the most logical at the time, but turned out to be very unfortunate. One of the reasons for this failure was because Ferrari's famous V12 engine was no longer competitive against the smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient V10s of their competitors.

Having a dismal 1991 season, Prost left the team describing the car as a "truck" and took a sabbatical.
In five years at the Italian marque Alesi gained little, except the passionate devotion of the tifosi, who loved his aggressive style. That style, and his use of the number 27 on his car, led many to associate him with Gilles Villeneuve, a beloved and still-popular Ferrari driver from 1977-1982. Alesi and teammate Gerhard Berger won only one race each at Ferrari.
When Benetton's Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996, Alesi and teammate Gerhard Berger swapped places with him. Though Benetton was the defending constructors' champions, they were about to experience a lull in form like Ferrari in 1991. Schumacher went on to rejuvenate Ferrari, while Alesi and Berger spent two seasons at a declining Benetton riddled with bad luck and internal politics.
Alesi moved on, initially to Sauber and later Prost, the latter which was owned by his former Ferrari teammate Alain Prost. With Prost, Alesi was consistent, finishing every race, occasionally in points scoring positions, his best finish being at Canada. A fallout after the British Grand Prix, however saw Alesi walk out after the German Grand Prix, where he scored a point.
Alesi ended his open-wheel career in 2001 with Jordan, bookending his career nicely: Alesi had driven for Jordan in Formula 3000 when he won the championship in 1989.

Alesi was often regarded as flamboyant and emotional, but after his spectacular performance at Phoenix in 1990, his career was notable more for its longevity than for its results. In 2001, he became only the fifth driver to start 200 Grand Prix races, and he achieved thirty-two podiums, yet he only gained one victory. It could be suggested that Alesi's potential was unfulfilled since he spent his peak years during the uncompetitive period at Ferrari.
His sole win was an emotional triumph at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on his 31st birthday. Although he had inherited the lead when Michael Schumacher pitted with electrical problems and Damon Hill's hydraulics failed, the victory was a popular one, particularly after several excellent but ultimately unrewarded drives the year before, notably in Italy.

Alesi's win at Montreal was voted the most popular race victory of the season by many, as it was the scarlet red number 27 Ferrari - once belonging to the famous Gilles Villeneuve at his much loved home Grand Prix. Memorably, Schumacher gave Alesi a lift back to the pits after Alesi's car ran out of fuel just before the Pits Hairpin.

Alesi would never win another Formula One Grand Prix, although later in 1995 at Monza his right-rear wheel bearing failed while he was leading with 9 laps to go, then at the Nürburgring severely worn tyres broke his defence of the lead with two laps remaining. In 1996 only a suspension failure prevented him from taking victory at Monaco, while in 1997 he led the Italian Grand Prix from pole before relinquishing the lead to David Coulthard courtesy of a slow pit stop in the closing stages of the race.
In 2001, after coming in fifth at Canada, Prost's best result of what would be his final season in F1, Alesi did a few donuts and threw his helmet into the crowd.

After Formula One, Alesi was a popular and successful driver in the DTM (German Touring Car Championship), where he placed fifth in the 2002 championship for Mercedes with one victory. He repeated this in 2003 but this time scoring two victories. In 2004 he finished seventh in the championship scoring no victories. In 2005 he won the opening race and went on to take seventh place in the standings once more. He retired from the DTM after finishing the 2006 season in 9th place.
After a couple of years out of racing, Alesi joined a number of other ex-Formula One drivers (Christian Danner, Johnny Herbert, Stefan Johansson, Ukyo Katayama, JJ Lehto, Gianni Morbidelli, Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Yoong) in the inaugural season of the Far & Middle Eastern Speedcar Series. He won two races and finished 4th in the championship.

Alesi is a wine connoisseur and has a vineyard near his hometown of Avignon, where he resides with his wife, Japanese model, actress, and pop singer Kumiko Goto and their four children.
Occasionally, he appears on the programs dedicated to the F1 season, aired on the Italian state television as a guest.

For an extensive Biography of Jean, you can visit his website at

In addition to the current pics above, a full gallery of both private and F1/DTM related pictures can be found here

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