In many ways, Jean Alesi was an archetypal Ferrari driver. Fast, feisty and with a have-a-go attitude, it took no time at all for him to be taken to the hearts of the tifosi when he moved to the Maranello team in 1991.
A French-Sicilian, Alesi had made his mark early in his F1 career with some stirring drives in a Tyrrell – his aggressive style would mark him out immediately as a target not only for Ferrari, but for all the top teams. As a result, he had his signature on two pre-contracts at the end of 1990: with Ferrari, and with the then powerful Williams team. As would be a trait with Alesi, his heart ruled his head, and signed for the former.
Alesi’s partnership with Gerhard Berger remains one of the classic Ferrari line-ups; the two complemented each other and brought a combination of excellent race-craft and outright speed.
The sole victory of his F1 career came at the Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal, in 1995. It was a popular victory for one of the most-liked drivers in the paddock, and came on his 31st birthday.
Alesi made the mistake of joining Ferrari as the team entered a lengthy win-drought, which would not be truly alleviated until the legendary days of Michael Schumacher in the early 2000’s.
Jean Alesi competed in several series following his retirement from F1, which came at the end of the 2001 season. He had endured difficult years in uncompetitive Benetton, Sauber, Prost and – finally – Jordan cars.
He lives in Avignon, France, were he has built a reputation as a wine expert and tends a vineyard, with his Japanese wife Kumiko, who is a successful actress, model and singer. The couple have four children, and son Giuliano Alesi currently competes in the FIA GP3 Championship with some success, and has been drafted into the Ferrari Young Driver Academy, from where he could graduate to an F1 career.
Starts – 201
Wins – 1 (with Ferrari)
Podiums – 32