For fans and drivers alike, statistics and records are an important part of the make-up of Formula 1. It allows us to chart history in terms of wins, titles and reigns. We judge drivers and teams, we take notice of their achievements and we are always looking for records to be broken. Consecutive wins, consecutive championships, consecutive points finishes – these are all honours that emphasise a certain pedigree of driver.
Of course, not all records can be held up as an achievement. Unfortunately, failure to win is recorded in the history books just the same as wins, and these are the kind of records that no driver wants to break.
Andrea de Cesaris has the legacy of being the driver with the most race starts to his name without a win. In a Formula 1 career which spanned fourteen years, de Cesaris started 208 races without ever making it to the top step of the podium. He can boast of five podiums, one pole position and 59 championship points, but a race win was the one thing that eluded him.
Born in Rome in 1959, de Cesaris won multiple karting championships before competing in the British Formula 3. After a successful season where he finished 2nd in the championship, he was picked up by Ron Dennis and his Formula 2 team, Project 4.
It was after this that de Cesaris made his Formula 1 debut with Alfa Romeo. The Italian driver was just 21 when he drove his first race in the Canadian Grand Prix of 1980, qualifying in 8th but having to retire because of an engine failure.
Over the next few years, de Cesaris would move to McLaren and return to Alfa Romeo, meanwhile earning himself the nickname of ‘Andrea de Crasheris’ because of the number of incidents he got involved in. Indeed, during the Dutch Grand Prix of 1981, McLaren withdrew de Cesaris from the race after he qualified in 13th, so concerned they were that he would damage another car.
It is perhaps unsurprising that de Cesaris also holds the record for most DNFs (135) as well as the record for most consecutive non-finishes, though mechanical issues also played a part in this.
His fist pole position came in the 1982 USA Grand Prix, and he demonstrated speed the following season when he took two 2nd place finishes in Germany and South Africa. He ended the 1983 season in 8th place for the World Drivers’ Championship, his best finish.
After Alfa Romeo, de Cesaris moved to a number of different teams, including Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Dallara, Jordan, Tyrell and Sauber. The Italian managed to score points for every one of the teams he raced for, with the exception of Minardi.
When de Cesaris retired, he was second only to Riccardo Patrese in terms of number of Grands Prix starts. He split his time between working as a currency trader in Monte Carlo and windsurfing in various parts of the world.
The Italian reappeared on the racing scene in 2005, when he agreed to take part in the Grand Prix Masters series for retired drivers. The inaugural event saw a race in South Africa in which de Cesaris finished fourth behind Riccardo Patrese, Emerson Fittipaldi and winner Nigel Mansell. He also returned for the 2006 event, finishing in 13th and 10th in the two races before the series came to a premature end, unable to continue because of financial problems.
In the end, de Cesaris still holds the record for most F1 races without a win, ahead of Nick Heidfield and Martin Brundle. It looks unlikely that any driver on the current grid will surpass that number – Adrian Sutil being the closest with 109 races without a win – but then again, this is one record that drivers will be perfectly happy not to break.