Back in the autumn of 1991, when Michael Schumacher jumped ship from Jordan Grand Prix to Benetton, team boss Eddie Jordan grabbed the man that he thought would be another star of the future: Alessandro Zanardi, as he was then known. Zanardi had won that year’s Formula 3000 title with the wonderfully named Il Barone Rampante team and was ready to break into Formula 1.

He took part in three races for Jordan and did well, but he did not have any money to get a drive in the 1992 season and so settled to be the reserve driver with Minardi. A year later, Team Lotus took him on as team-mate to Johnny Herbert and he scored his first point in just his second race for the team.

Sadly, the team struggled more and more for money and by mid-season was forced to drop Zanardi in order to raise extra funds. He returned in 1994, but the team was by then in terminal decline. When it closed down, Zanardi was left with nothing for 1995.  

That year he married Daniela Manni, who had been his team manager at Il Barone Rampante. They decided to head to the United States in 1996, taking up the offer of a drive from Chip Ganassi. A few months later the Americanised 'Alex' was winning races, and in 1997 and 1998 Zanardi won back-to-back IndyCar titles.