Elio de Angelis (26 March 1958 – 15 May 1986) was an Italian racing driver who participated in Formula One between 1979 and 1986, racing for the Shadow, Lotus and Brabham teams. He was killed during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet in 1986.
Raceways - Car
During tests at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, the rear wing of his BT55 detached at high speed resulting in the car losing downforce on the rear wheels, which instigated a cartwheel over a sidetrack barrier and causing the car to catch fire. The impact itself did not kill de Angelis but he was unable to extract himself from the car unassisted. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of track marshals on the circuit who could have provided him with emergency assistance. A 30 minute delay ensued before a helicopter arrived and De Angelis died 29 hours later, at the hospital in Marseille where he had been taken, from smoke inhalation. His actual crash impact injuries were only a broken collar bone and light burns on his back. The tragic circumstances of his death caused radical changes to be introduced by then President Jean-Marie Balestre in the months following his accident which ultimately heralded the end of the turbo powered era in Formula One racing.
De Angelis' place in the Brabham team was subsequently taken by Derek Warwick, allegedly because Warwick was the only driver who did not contact Brabham immediately after De Angelis' death asking to replace him.
De Angelis was the last driver to die in an F1 car until Roland Ratzenberger at Imola eight years later. The French-Sicilian driver Jean Alesi - who broke into the sport three years after de Angelis died - wore a helmet that exactly matched de Angelis' design, in tribute to his semi-compatriot.
De Angelis was also a concert-standard pianist, and famously kept his fellow F1 drivers entertained with his skills while they locked themselves in a Johannesburg hotel before the 1982 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami when the Grand Prix Drivers Association held a strike in protest at the new superlicense conditions imposed by the governing body, FISA.