In 2005 and 2006 he competed in the Grand Prix Masters formula for retired F1 drivers.
He died on 5 October 2014 after losing control of his motorcycle on Rome's Grande Raccordo Anulare motorway.
De Cesaris was born in Rome on 31 May 1959. A multiple karting champion, he graduated to Formula 3 in Britain, winning numerous events and finishing 2nd in the championship to Chico Serra. From Formula 3, he graduated to Formula 2 with future McLaren boss Ron Dennis' Project 4 team.Related article: Alfa Romeo in Formula One
In 1980, de Cesaris was picked up by Alfa Romeo for the final events of the 1980 World Championship, replacing Vittorio Brambilla who had, in turn, replaced Patrick Depailler when he was killed testing at Hockenheim. At just 21 years old, his first race in Canada ended after eight laps because of engine failure. In his second race, at Watkins Glen in the United States, he went off and crashed into the catch fencing at the Junction corner after two laps.Related article: McLaren
In 1981, largely thanks to his personal Marlboro sponsorship which also happened to be McLaren's main sponsor, de Cesaris landed a seat at McLaren which had after the 1980 season merged with the Project Four Formula 2 team run by Ron Dennis. Although he was quick and he possibly would have won the British Grand Prix that year, the season was not a success, with de Cesaris crashing no less than nineteen times either in practice or the race and sometimes in both; often due to driver error. The team was so worried that he would crash the car that they withdrew his car from the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort after he qualified 13th. The Italian managed to finish only 6 of the 14 races he started. A sixth place at Imola was his best result and this was not enough to convince the resurgent McLaren team to keep him on. It was at this point in his career that the nickname "Andrea de Crasheris" was coined.
In July 1981 de Cesaris and Henri Pescarolo finished second to the team of Riccardo Patrese and Michele Alboreto in a 6-hour endurance race at Watkins Glen, New York. Both teams drove Lancia cars with de Cesaris and Pescarolo finishing two laps behind.Related article: Alfa Romeo in Formula One
Moving back to Alfa Romeo in 1982, de Cesaris became the youngest man ever to take pole position at the Long Beach Grand Prix. De Cesaris was also only the second Alfa Romeo driver to capture a pole since 1952. De Cesaris led the initial stages of the race until he missed a gear while lapping the slower car of Raul Boesel, letting Niki Lauda get past. He crashed out later on the fifth of twelve turns near the midway point of the race while understeering off into Long Beach's unforgiving concrete walls. De Cesaris was not injured but flames emanated from the rear of his Alfa Romeo as he climbed out of its battered cockpit.
From this point onwards, de Cesaris was nearly always seen by most in the paddock as prone to occasional brilliance but more often than not, erratic behaviour. 1982 saw a podium finish at Monte Carlo and another point in Canada. At the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix Didier Pironi retired on the final lap with electrical trouble on his Ferrari. De Cesaris ran out of fuel at the same point, allowing Riccardo Patrese to win his first Formula 1 race in 71 starts. At the start of the Austrian Grand Prix, de Cesaris, concentrating on trying to pass the car in front of him, veered across the entire width of the track and rammed his teammate Bruno Giacomelli into the wall, taking both out.
In 1983, with his Alfa Romeo now using a turbo engine, he took two second places, one at Hockenheim in the 1983 German Grand Prix (his first points of the season) and the other one in the season-closing 1983 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, 9.319 seconds behind Riccardo Patrese. De Cesaris came close to winning at Spa-Francorchamps, after comfortably leading from the Renault of Alain Prost for much of the race before a botched pit stop delayed him and a blown engine put him out of the race handing victory to the Frenchman.
De Cesaris moved to Ligier in 1984, where, despite the car's promising Renault turbo engine, he did not build on his earlier success. He scored only three points during the season.
At the end of 1984, de Cesaris and Ligier teammate François Hesnault travelled to Australia to drive in the 1984 Australian Grand Prix, the last domestic AGP before the race became part of the Formula One World Championship in 1985. Driving a Ford BDA powered Ralt RT4 (18 of the 25 car field were RT4s), de Cesaris qualified in 5th place. After entering the pits at the end of the warm up lap, he exited the pits moments before the green flag and was almost a lap behind when the race started. He then proceeded to put in what many consider as the drive of the day to eventually finish 3rd (without ever losing a lap) behind Roberto Moreno (winner) and Keke Rosberg.
The 1985 season did not prove any better for de Cesaris, and he was lucky to retain his seat before the season as Ligier had signed French cigarette company Gitanes as their major sponsor, a rival of his personal sponsor Marlboro. A number of strong performances including a strong fourth place at Monaco showed early promise but the season turned into a dismal one after he destroyed his Ligier JS25 in a quadruple-rollover at the Austrian Grand Prix, and was fired by team boss Guy Ligier as a result. After spending countless money repairing cars de Cesaris had crashed in his 20 months with the team, Guy Ligier stated that "I can no longer afford to employ this man" (this was despite Marlboro paying the bulk of his salary). He was kept in the team until the next race at Zandvoort, after which he was replaced by Philippe Streiff.Related article: Minardi
In 1986 de Cesaris moved to Minardi. In an overweight car with the underpowered Motori Moderni engine, he was more often than not outpaced by his teammate, fellow Italian and F1 rookie Alessandro Nannini. For the first time in his career, de Cesaris went an entire season without scoring a point despite a good race pace in the first race of the year, in Brazil, he started towards the back of the grid, but stormed up to sixth place by lap 16. However, the very unreliable Motori Moderni Turbo failed, ending what was shaping up to be an amazing performance in an incompetitive car. Furthermore, de Cesaris, somehow, managed to qualify eleventh for the seasons final race in Australia.Related article: Brabham
In 1987 de Cesaris switched to Brabham-BMW. With the Bernie Ecclestone-owned team he got back to better results, even though he mostly did not match his teammate Riccardo Patrese. At the 1987 Belgian Grand Prix, at Spa, Belgium, de Cesaris placed third behind Alain Prost and Stefan Johansson, his first points in nearly two years and his first podium finish since the final round of the 1983 season in South Africa. He would not finish another race that season. Although he usually qualified well (his best qualifying for the year was 7th in Germany, his worst 21st in Monaco), the powerful BMW turbo would often end its races by exploding in flames, making a consistent points haul impossible.Related article: Rial
For 1988 Brabham pulled out of Formula One and de Cesaris was again looking for a new home. He found it at the new Rial team, run by German Günter Schmid, the former boss of the ATS outfit. The car was extremely slimline, exposing de Cesaris. But, with Cosworth power, he managed to qualify for all the sixteen races of the season (the last time until 1992 that he was to make every F1 grid of the season) and took fourth place in the Detroit Grand Prix. He also twice ran out of fuel in the last laps while running in the points, in Canada and Australia.Related articles: Dallara, BMS Scuderia Italia
For 1989, de Cesaris moved to a team where he had one of his best seasons, the red and white Marlboro-sponsored Scuderia Italia squad. Early results were again promising. By now one of the more experienced drivers in the field, he was on course for a podium position in Monte Carlo, before being taken out by triple world champion Nelson Piquet at the Lowes Hairpin. De Cesaris lost his temper in a massive way. As the cars were locked together, he screamed and waved wildly, before berating Piquet's Lotus team upon returning to the pits. Two races later, after an early delay he was being lapped by Dallara teammate Alex Caffi when he ran his fellow Italian into the wall, robbing the team of another podium (de Cesaris confirmed the general view that he had tunnel vision when he claimed he did not even see Caffi, despite his teammate actually having got slightly ahead). He made amends at the next race in Canada, finishing third behind Williams drivers Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese in a rain-soaked race. It would be the last time de Cesaris stood on the Formula One podium. Showing just how fleeting success in Formula One can be, at the very next race in France, de Cesaris failed to qualify. In fact, it was Caffi who bumped him from the field with the Dallaras qualifying 26th and 27th respectively.
Scuderia Italia's promise was not repeated in 1990. With a number of teams now using either Ford or Judd customer V8s (Dallara used the Ford DFR), the midfield had become much tighter. De Cesaris was involved in a number of incidents during that season, including crashing out at the start of the first lap at Interlagos, and at Imola, where he forced off Alessandro Nannini during practice at Curva Villeneuve and the Italian shunted his brand new Benetton. He also nearly took out the Ferrari of 2nd-placed Nigel Mansell while being lapped during the race, prompting BBC commentator and 1976 World Champion James Hunt to call him an idiot on live television. Reliability was a problem, and he again failed to score a point all season, even failing to qualify for the German Grand Prix.Related article: Jordan Grand Prix
Dumped for JJ Lehto at Dallara at the end of 1990, de Cesaris was signed by Eddie Jordan for his team's first season in Formula One. Jordan had already run de Cesaris in Formula 3.
At the season's first race in Phoenix de Cesaris selected the wrong gear in the short pre-qualifying session, buzzed the engine and was out. That result was no indication of what was to come. De Cesaris showed proper form at Monaco, forcing his way past the Benetton of Roberto Moreno and was running in the points when the Jordan's throttle cable snapped.
In the next race in Canada he finished a strong fourth. De Cesaris then rebuffed anyone who thought this was a fluke by repeating the result next time out in Mexico. The following race in France he finished sixth. Suspension failure in Great Britain led to a massive crash but the Italian bounced back to qualify seventh and finish fifth in Germany.
He did not score again after this midseason purple patch, but his day of days came during the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Franchorchamps. Despite the pressure of being outqualified by debutant teammate Michael Schumacher, de Cesaris moved through the field to take second position until his car's Ford HB V8 blew. A communication problem between Ford and the Jordan team meant the oil tank in the car was too small to service a new type of piston ring, which used more lubricant.
De Cesaris finished the season 9th in the standings, his best result since 1983.Related article: Tyrrell Racing
Despite Eddie Jordan's desire to keep de Cesaris for the 1992 season, financial realities meant it was not possible. Jordan had built up significant debts in his debut season. He was able to secure sponsorship from Barclay Cigarettes, but the brand was in direct conflict with de Cesaris' Marlboro backing. Something had to give, and the Italian left the team where he'd had a much more successful season than most previous years.
Ken Tyrrell hired de Cesaris for his team and his faith was quickly repaid when de Cesaris took a fifth in the second race of the season in Mexico, when, after being caught up in early spin, he battled through the field, even slip-streaming past the factory Ferrari of Jean Alesi.
The Ilmor V-10 powered Tyrrell 020 was a decent car, and de Cesaris was in the points three more times during the season culminating in a fourth place in the Japanese Grand Prix.
1993 was very different. The Ilmor engine had been replaced with free Yamaha V10s which changed the dynamics and reliability of the car. The 020 was by then very old and was replaced mid-season by the 021. This car, featuring active suspension, was not a success. For the third time in his career, de Cesaris failed to score a point and left Tyrrell at the end of the season. Furthemore, he struggled for form, because not only did he crash more often than during the two previous seasons, but he struggled to get the better of Ukyo Katayama.Related articles: Jordan Grand Prix, Sauber
In 1994, for the first time since 1980, de Cesaris started the season without a Formula One drive. Talks with several small teams came to nothing and as the circus left for Brazil, he was on the sidelines. But it was an event during the Brazilian Grand Prix that revived his career. Irishman Eddie Irvine was blamed for starting a massive accident which saw Jos Verstappen barrel roll over the top of Martin Brundle. On appeal, Irvine was banned for three races. At the Pacific Grand Prix, Aguri Suzuki drove Irvine's vacated Jordan. But for the next race, the San Marino Grand Prix, Eddie Jordan brought de Cesaris back to the team where he had earned his best results back three seasons earlier.
The return didn't start well when de Cesaris wrote off a chassis during testing. He crashed again during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola due to poor fitness having not driven a race distance in six months. He bounced back in Monte Carlo, where de Cesaris stayed away from trouble and away from the barriers to take fourth place. Irvine returned for the next race but Sauber had noticed the Italian's form, and signed him to replace the injured Karl Wendlinger in the Mercedes-powered machines.
De Cesaris' first race for Sauber was his 200th Grand Prix, in Canada. Although there he retired after 24 laps, he was back in the points at the next event, the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.
De Cesaris' career then ended much as it began, when he retired with throttle problems during his last race, the 1994 European Grand Prix. After this, Peter Sauber kept his promise to return the car to Karl Wendlinger if he was fit enough. In the end he was not, but de Cesaris was unreachable on holiday, so JJ Lehto replaced him for the final two Grands Prix. De Cesaris ended his career with 208 Grand Prix starts, second only to Riccardo Patrese at the time. Numerous other drivers have since surpassed his total.
He participated in 214 grands prix, debuting on September 28, 1980. He achieved 5 podiums, one pole position, and scored a total of 59 championship points, but remains the driver with the most GP starts (208) to his name without a win. He also holds records for the most consecutive non-finishes, 18 across 1985 and 1986 (although many of these were mechanical failures), as well as the most successive non-finishes in a single season, 12 in 1987. Similarly, no driver has had more than his 14 DNFs in a 16-race season. He scored points for 9 out of 10 teams he raced for: McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Brabham, Rial, Tyrrell, Jordan, Ligier, Scuderia Italia and Sauber; failing to do so for Minardi only.
After retiring from motor-racing, de Cesaris became a successful currency broker in Monte Carlo. It has been reported that he spent six months of the year in this occupation and the remainder windsurfing around the world. In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, de Cesaris gave a substantial donation to a sail manufacturer (Ezzy Sails) whose factory in Sri Lanka had been destroyed in the disaster.
De Cesaris' helmet was white with three diagonal lines resembling the Italian flag running across the top until the sides, and a red line between two green lines in the chin area.
Long absent from the Formula One paddock, de Cesaris appeared at the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, and was welcomed back with a warm hug from former Brabham team boss and Formula One czar Bernie Ecclestone. A few months later it was announced de Cesaris would race in the new Grand Prix Masters series for retired Formula One drivers. While some drivers had spent their retirement years accumulating kilos, de Cesaris was still in top physical condition thanks to his frequent windsurfing. In October, he proved he had lost none of his speed, setting the fastest time in the first Grand Prix Masters test at the Silverstone South circuit in England. Autosport magazine Grand Prix editor Mark Hughes predicted that de Cesaris would be one of the strongest drivers in the Masters field. In the first race at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa, de Cesaris qualified well and raced to fourth, after a fierce battle with Briton Derek Warwick.
De Cesaris was killed in a road incident on 5 October 2014 at age 55 while riding his Suzuki motorbike. Italian press reported that he died on impact with the guard rail on the outer lane of Rome's Grande Raccordo Anulare freeway, in proximity of the Bufalotta turn-off.
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position / Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
† Driver did not finish the Grand Prix, but was classified as he completed over 90% of the race distance.