The London Paralympic Games begins on Wednesday and F1 fans should keep an eye open for the adventures of Alex Zanardi. The 45-year-old Italian first broke into Formula 1 with the 7Up Jordan team at the end of 1991, when he replaced Roberto Moreno for the final three races of the season. At the time he was the Formula 3000 Champion. He scored two ninth places, a very decent start at the time, but he had no money and so did not reappear until Minardi called him in to replace an injured Christian Fittipaldi for a number of races. The following year he was signed as team-mate to Johnny Herbert at Team Lotus and he scored his first (and only) World Championship point in Brazil in 1993. In the middle of the year the team ran out of cash and he was dropped to make room for a pay-driver, but he returned in 1994, although by then the team was in dire financial trouble and results were almost impossible to achieve.
In consequence he went to the United States in 1996 and raced with Chip Ganassi in CART, winning the title in 1997 and 1998. His success in America led to a second chance in F1 with Williams in 1999. The relationship never gelled and while his team-mate Ralf Schumacher finished on the podium several times, Zanardi never managed better than seventh. The team lost faith and the three-year deal was terminated at the end of the first year, which opened the way for Jenson Button to make his F1 debut. Zanardi went back to the United States in 2001 and was racing with Mo Nunn Racing when he was involved in a dreadful accident at the Lausitzring in Germany when he spun and was T-boned by Alex Tagliani. Zanardi lost both legs in the impact but his life was saved by medical crews, who rushed him by helicopter to hospital in Berlin, where he arrived with very little blood left in his system.
He returned to racing in 2003, with artificial legs, while also starting his own karting company, which has enjoyed much success. Between 2005 and 2009 Alex raced in the World Touring Car Championship in the BMW factory team, winning four races. He even returned to try a specially-adapted Sauber BMW F1 car in November 2006, using hand controls.
While he was still racing he started competing in handcycling events, finishing fourth in the New York Marathon in 2007 and winning the Venice Marathon in 2009 and Rome in 2010. In 2011 he won the New York Marathon and earlier this year was named as a member of the Italian team for the London Paralympics. He will compete in three handcycling road events, all of them to be held at the Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent. The Men’s Individual Time Trial will be on September 5. The Men’s Individual Road Race will be on September 7 and the Mixed Team Relay will take place on September 8.