Riccardo Patrese

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Riccardo Gabriele Patrese[1] (born 17 April 1954) is an Italian former racing driver, who raced in Formula One from 1977 to 1993. He became the first Formula One driver to achieve 200 Grand Prix starts when he appeared at the 1990 British Grand Prix, and the first to achieve 250 starts at the 1993 German Grand Prix. Patrese entered 257 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix and started 256 races making him the third most experienced F1 driver in history, after Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher. He was runner up in the 1992 Formula One season and third in 1989 and 1991. He won six Formula One races, with a record gap of over six years between two of these - the 1983 South African Grand Prix and 1990 San Marino Grand Prix.


Formula One career

Shadow and Arrows

Patrese was born in Padua, Veneto. He made his debut in 1977 with the Shadow racing team at the Monaco Grand Prix when the team were forced to change drivers due to Renzo Zorzi having financial problems. Later that year team-leader Jackie Oliver left Shadow to form the Arrows team, taking Patrese with him. Shadow took Arrows to court, arguing that the design of the Arrows car was so similar to their own that Arrows had stolen it. The court agreed, forcing Arrows to redesign their car, which they did in just six weeks.

In 1978 Patrese very nearly won Arrows' second race, the South African Grand Prix, until engine failure forced him to retire 15 laps from the end. Later that year, Patrese was involved in a pile-up when he came together with James Hunt and other drivers' cars at the start of the Italian Grand Prix. One of the other drivers involved was Ronnie Peterson, who, although his injuries were not in themselves life-threatening, died from an embolism the following day. After the crash, Hunt (along with other drivers) blamed Patrese for starting the accident, and viewers of Hunt's commentaries of Formula One races from 1980-1993 on BBC Television were regularly treated to bitter diatribes against Patrese when the Italian appeared on screen. Hunt believed that it was Patrese's muscling past that caused the McLaren and Lotus to touch, but Patrese argues that he was already well ahead of the pair before the accident took place. Patrese, together with the official who started the race, stood trial in 1981 for Peterson's death but both were declared not guilty and speculations towards Hunt's involvement in Peterson's death arose instead.

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