CART drivers who raced in F1: From Andretti to Zanardi part 7


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Nelson Piquet and Bobby Rahal are two of the most successful drivers in F1 and Champ Car respectively. Each won three championships, and each also made unsuccessful forays into the other discipline, starting only two races.

Read more about them below plus the driver who started just one race in each category.

Shinji Nakano

In order to keep Mugen-Honda engines in his cars for 1997 Alain Prost was urged to take on a Japanese driver, and so Shinji Nakano made his F1 debut. As pay drivers go his form was fair, managing a couple of sixth places, before being dropped and ending up at Minardi the following year.

He switched to Champ Car in 2000 and managed three points finished in his debut season with Walker Racing. He switched to Fernandez for the next two years, managing a best finish of fourth at Toronto before quitting.

Danny Ongais

Hawaiian racer Ongais made four F1 starts for Penske and Ensign in 1977 and 1978, and failed to pre-qualify twice for Shadow. His Champ Car career lasted a bit longer.

He made his Champ Car debut in 1979 and scored 1,473 points to finish sixth (in the days when 1,000 points were awarded for a win). But two years later Ongais crashed heavily at Indianapolis and suffered broken arms, legs and internal injuries.

Returning to the championship in 1983 he was tenth overall the following year. After 1985 he made only occasional appearances, the last of which in 1987. However after the CART-IRL split he did compete in the new Indy Racing League and in 1996 took Scott Brayton’s place in the Indianapolis 500, Brayton having been killed in a crash in practice. He finished seventh, but the following year failed to qualify for his final attempt.

Massimiliano Papis

Aften seven races with the uncompetitive Footwork team in 1995 Papis turned to Champ Car where he earned far greater success including three race wins. Those wins came during the best form of his career while he was at Team Rahal from 1999-2001, and was fifth in the championship in 1999. He did a few races in 2002-3 before quitting.

Nelson Piquet

Piquet won three championships in Formula 1: two for Brabham in 1981 and 1983, and a third for Williams in 1987. However a subsequent move to Lotus yielded no wins in two years. Piquet jumped ship to Benetton in 1990 and moved back towards the sharp end of the grid. He won one last time in his final F1 season, 1991, before heading to Champ Car.

However Piquet’s switch prove disastrous. In practice for the Indianapolis 500 his car spun through 360 degrees, striking the wall almost head-on. He suffered concussion and multiple leg fractures. He returned in 1993 and made it into the race, but retired after 38 laps with engine failure. Since then he has helped bring along the career of his son Nelson Piquet Jnr.

Read more about Nelson Piquet: Nelson Piquet biography

Teddy Pilette

Belgian Pilette started one F1 race and one Champ Car race. He drove a Brabham in his home F1 event in 1974 and failed to qualify on three occasions in 1977. In 1981 he started 12th in the Champ Car round at Watkins Glen and retired with gearbox failure.

Antonio Pizzonia

Pizzonia was paired with Mark Webber at Jaguar in 2003 and after a string of unimpressive races was dropped for Justin Wilson. Nonetheless he made several starts for Williams in 2004 and 2005 standing in for the injured Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld respectively.

He failed to shine in four outings for Rocketsports in Champ Car in 2006, and returned this year for the series’ final race at Long Beach.

Read more about Antonio Pizzonia: Antonio Pizzonia biography

Bobby Rahal

Rahal had a very long and successful career in Champ Car but did just two F1 races, at the United States and Canadian Grands Prix of 1978, for Walter Wolf Racing.

He moved to Champ Car in 1982 beginning a career that spanned 17 years and included 264 starts, 24 wins, three championships and an Indianapolis 500 victory. In only his third start he qualified second at Cleveland and won. He was championship runner-up in that first season.

Rahal delivered back-to-back titles for Truesports in 1986 and 1987, beating Michael Andretti to the championship by just eight points in the first. He also win the Indy 500 that year.

In 1992, now driving for his own team, he was champion for a third time, again edging the younger Andretti, this time by just four points. Although he never won another race, he continued competing until 1998.

After that he had a brief but unsuccessful stint as team principal at Jaguar Racing in F1. The Rahal-Andretti rivalry is set to continue and his son Graham shared the front row of the grid with Marco Andretti (Michael’s son) and Milwaukee in the re-united Indy Car series last weekend.

Meet the rookies: Marco Andretti


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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One comment on “CART drivers who raced in F1: From Andretti to Zanardi part 7”

  1. Robert McKay
    8th June 2008, 15:48

    “…in the days when 1,000 points were awarded for a win”

    Whaaaat? Seriously? Crazy.

    What was the rest of the points allocated? Surely they could have divided by some factor and come up with something a touch more sensible and a touch less like a country with rampant inflation?

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