The second in the occasional What Happened & Where Are They Now series, this time around we take a look at the career of one more Formula One drop-out; Andrea Montermini. Typically for this series, the chosen driver ran around the back of the field in poorly funded teams during his F1 appearances. Despite only driving well enough for the back row of the grid, Montermini did manage two seasons of racing, but inevitably he faded into obscurity along with the teams he drove for.
Born in Italy in 1964, Montermini reached Formula One after a prolific career in lower formulae, despite not actually starting until relatively late in his life. It wasn’t until Andrea was 23 that he decided to have a go at racing, but his first foray went spectacularly well. Andrea competed in Italian Formula Alfa Boxer, and although he only had enough funds for five races, his results broke down to three wins and two second places.
F3000 – Reasonable Success
By 1990 Montermini had impressively progressed into F3000, now known as GP2 and largely considered as the feeder series to Formula One. Driving for the Mansell-Madgwick team, Andrea took pole position at his first attempt at Donington Park. Unfortunately though, it was during his time in F3000 that Montermini developed a reputation for not finishing, only managing six complete race distances from eleven. His pace shone through though and he was hired by the 3001 International team and continued in F3000. Further retirements and mechanical failures only added to his reckless reputation, but as with Montermini’s first year, the flashes of brilliance shone through on occasion. 1991 also saw the Italian sign for Ferrari as a test driver.
Hoping to get a Formula One drive in 1992 through his testing duties at the Scuderia, Montermini worked hard hoping to get noticed. However, the team was going through a period of change and upheaval and Andrea was let go at the end of 1991. Forced to remain in F3000, Andrea signed for Il Barone Rampante team alongside Rubens Barrichello. Andrea’s pace was good and the first part of the season was spent on pole position and on the podium. Montermini even took a victory in Spain. However, funding began to dry up and the Italian had to leave the team just prior to the Belgian race.
Andrea joined Forti, a team whom he would become associated with again later in his career. It turned out to be a good move though, and Montermini settled in quick to win in Belgium, taking the pole and fastest lap on his way. By the end of the season he finished in a fine second place, losing out to Luca Badoer in Magny Cours.
CART To Formula One
1993 was spent in America racing in the CART series, but a tally of just twelve points at the end of the year wasn’t enough to earn a full-time drive for 1994. Andrea did manage a few one-off drives, but a long-term contract didn’t come his way. Then, partway through the Formula One season, Andrea was given a chance to compete at the sport’s highest level, the circumstances though were not good.
The motor sporting world was mourning the loss of two drivers following the San Marino Grand Prix, but the teams for whom Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger raced for continued, and replacement drivers were sought. Williams went with alternating between Nigel Mansell and David Coulthard for the rest of the season, and Simtek called Andrea to offer the seat.
Andrea’s Formula One debut didn’t go quite as well as planned though. Although the Italian went well in practice, lifting the spirits of the team, qualifying provided a shock that Montermini will never forget. Suffering from flu Andrea persevered, but coming out the final corner he crashed heavily, impacting the barrier, rebounding back onto the circuit and spinning across the track into the concrete pitwall. Andrea sat motionless in the car, the front end completely destroyed. As everyone looked on in horror, marshals and paramedics arrived to find that Montermini wasn’t as badly injured as expected. He would need some recuperation time though, and his first Formula One start was delayed.
Andrea didn’t compete for the rest of the season, instead spending time away from motor racing to recover from his foot and ankle injuries. For 1995 Montermini was picked up by Pacific, mainly because nobody else wanted to drive for them. Their 1994 form was abysmal but fewer entries and an improved chassis meant that Andrea would be able to get a decent season of racing in.
His year started well and the Italian even managed to out-qualify fellow back-row dwellers Forti, who progressed up to Formula One in 1995. Unfortunately, although Andrea did well in qualifying, his race results were inconsistent, ranging from eighth to not even leaving the grid. At the rain-soaked Nurburgring Montermini found himself surrounded by McLarens as the usual pace of the grid was turned upside down. However, when Montermini came in for his pitstop there was a problem with the refueling rig and the team struggled to fill the car up. Paul Summerfield, the engineer in charge of the fuel rig, removed the hose and turned around to see if he could work out what was wrong. By turning around the lolli-pop man presumed the stop was complete and gave the signal to Andrea to pull away. Summerfield’s leg was broken in two places as the result of being hit by a rapidly accelerating Formula One car, and Montermini eventually ran out of fuel on the track.
By the end of the season Pacific was bust, not helped by Montermini’s promised sponsorship money not materialising. The team folded and the seemingly luckless Italian joined Forti, a team he drove for when they were competing in F3000. While getting a drive in F1 was an achievement in itself, the Forti team were desperately underfunded, and a change in the rules would make even qualifying for the races a challenge. When Andrea did get into the races, his reputation proceeded him and more often than not Andrea found himself in a gravel trap or armco barrier.
Post Formula One
Montermini’s demise was closely followed by Forti and the Italian turned his back on Formula One. In 1997 Andrea entered the world of sports car racing and his results were good enough for Tom Walkinshaw to select him for testing his Le Mans racer. His work for TWR led to a drive in 1998, from which a sixth place resulted in the famous 24 hour race. The following year Montermini got another Le Mans sixth, this time with the Courage C52 Nissan car. Aside from a brief return to the American CART series, Montermini’s career pretty much ended in 2002. He still races, currently in the GT Open Championship, but celebrating his 44th birthday this year, Andrea is enjoying the twilight of his racing life and is considering taking over the tiling business started by his family.