Almost 800 drivers have started a round of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship, but only nine of those drivers have been born on the day that a Grand Prix took place. We take a look at those drivers, and what happened in the races on the day of their birth!
Three-time World Champion Nelson Piquet was the first driver to be born on the same day as a World Championship Grand Prix took place. Piquet was born on 17th August, 1952 – the day on which the 1952 Dutch Grand Prix was held. On the day that Piquet was born, reigning World Champion Alberto Ascari set a new record for most Grand Prix victories, scoring the seventh win of his career at Zandvoort.
Piquet would go on to race at Zandvoort himself eight times in his Formula 1 career, winning the Dutch Grand Prix in 1980 and finishing as runner-up in each of the next two seasons.
Riccardo Paletti was born on the day that Tony Brooks took his first solo victory. Paletti’s birthday – Sunday 15th June 1958 – is the same day that the Belgian Grand Prix took place at Spa Francorchamps. It was the day on which eventual 1958 World Champion Mike Hawthorn started from pole position for the first time. Hawthorn finished as runner-up to Brooks, who scored the second win of his career. His first win had come at the previous year’s British Grand Prix, a race in which he shared the car with Stirling Moss. Also on this day, Stuart Lewis-Evans took his first podium finish and Maria Teresa de Filippis became the first woman to complete a Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Paletti made eight F1 appearances with Osella in 1982, qualifying for only three races. He retired after seven laps at the San Marino Grand Prix and failed to start the Detroit Grand Prix after crashing in the warm up session. The Italian died two days before his 23rd birthday as the result of a crash at the start of the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix.
Andrea de Cesaris
On 31st May 1959 – the day that BRM took their first race win at the 1959 Dutch Grand Prix – Andrea de Cesaris was born in Rome, Italy. Jo Bonnier was the driver who took BRM’s first win, having started from pole position. It was the only pole and victory of the Swedish driver’s career. Also on the day that de Cesaris was born, Innes Ireland made his World Championship debut and scored, finishing in fourth place for Lotus. Those with knowledge of de Cesaris’ career won’t be surprised to hear that the Italian never managed to complete the Dutch Grand Prix on his five appearances at Zandvoort.
Strangely, an Italian F1 driver was born on the day that Innes Ireland made his debut and another Italian F1 driver was born on the day that Ireland made his final appearance. Alex Zanardi was born on the same day that the 1966 Mexican Grand Prix was held; 23rd October 1966. John Surtees, who on the previous day had taken the final pole position for the Cooper team – and the final pole for a Maserati engine – won the event. Zanardi made his F1 debut 25 years later in 1991, racing with Jordan, Minardi and Lotus over the next three years. He returned to the sport in 1999 with Williams – a season in which he failed to score.
The 1972 South African Grand Prix took place on 4th March 1972 – the same day on which Jos Verstappen was born. The second race of the 1972 season saw Carlos Pace make his Formula 1 debut, while Peter Revson recorded the first podium finish of his career. Denny Hulme won the race ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, who would win his first title later that year. Verstappen was born on the same day in Montfort, Netherlands. Verstappen made his debut in 1994, the year after the Kyalami race was removed from the F1 calendar. He raced for seven different teams in his eight season career, finishing on the podium twice.
Giorgio Pantano was born on 4th February 1979: the same day on which the 1979 Brazilian Grand Prix was held. Ligier dominated the race on the day which Pantano was born, with Jacques Laffite leading home a 1-2 finish for the team. This race was the only one in which Laffite scored a Grand Chelem in his career. Laffite took pole position, led every lap and scored the fastest lap of the race on his way to victory. Pantano never raced at the Brazilian Grand Prix in his career, as he left Jordan before the Interlagos race in 2004, his only season in the sport. After his brief F1 stint, Pantano raced in the GP2 Series, winning the title in 2008.
The 1983 South African Grand Prix was the final race of the 1983 season, held on the 15th October, and was the race before Ayrton Senna made his debut in 1984. On the day of the 1983 South African Grand Prix, Senna’s nephew Bruno Senna was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Bruno made his Formula 1 debut in 2010 and raced for HRT, Lotus and Williams in his three-year career. He went on to race in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship. On the day of Senna’s birth, Riccardo Patrese won for Brabham, while Jean-Pierre Jarier, Bruno Giacomelli and Danny Sullivan made their final appearances.
Sergey Sirotkin was born on 27th August 1995. On that day, Michael Schumacher won for Benetton at the Belgian Grand Prix. Damon Hill – who was driving for Williams, the team with whom Sirotkin would make his F1 debut with 22 years later – finished second, scoring Williams’ 200th podium finish. Martin Brundle finished in third place for Ligier, finishing on the podium for the final time in his career.
Mika Hakkinen led home a McLaren 1-2 at the 1999 Spanish Grand Prix on the day that Guanyu Zhou was born. Zhou, who will make his F1 debut in 2022, was born in Shanghai on 30th May 1999. It wasn’t a good day for Sauber – now Alfa Romeo, the team with whom Zhou will make his debut at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix. Both Sauber drivers retired from the race despite a strong showing from Jean Alesi on the previous day, who qualified in fifth place.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.