Yesterday i purchased a bunch of Autosport magazines from 1987 up to 2000. The first edition I opened showed an article regarding a test drive for Olivier Panis in the Benetton B193, which seemed never happened. He got this opportunity for his results in other series. However, the next article I read was about the IRA bombing Flavio Briatore’s home in London. It raised the question, were especially the early years of the 1990s in the Formula One a wild west show?
I can instantly answer the question; No it was not as long you were not an outspoken, notorious or insane personality in the Formula One. Why I’m answering this? Well let me give you some stories I recall from the past.
Let’s start first with the Italian Andrea Sassetti team owner of Andrea Moda in 1992. You probably remember that team. If not look up the story from the original stig. Sassetti owned a shoe factory and was what you can say a flamboyant and insane personality in the Formula One. If he could, he would probably have had every race a new driver. Was Sassetti wild? Hell yes. During the Spanish Grand Prix he send out McCarthy on full wets on a dry track!
It’s not the end of the story after the Monaco Grand Prix, when he was clubbing in his own club in Italy the place burned down to the ground. While he fled the club, someone started to shoot at Andrea. You could say that this was an assassination attempt on him. The Wild Wild West. Why he was shot at? Probably because of his earlier days in the 80s. Rumours go that he had links with the Mafia. Crazy as hell. Years later, he was arrested. However, today he still owns his Andrea Moda’s the 921s and seems to live a quiet life.
Another Italian in the Formula One with a reputation. Well known for his wild parties with the Billionaires club in the early 00s. As well for his management style in the Formula One. He came in the Formula One during the 80s with Benetton which he would stay at until the well-known “accident” with Piquet JR. at Singapore 2008. When he crashed his Renault on command to have Alonso wining the Grand Prix. During his years with Benetton, a lot of controversy happened around him. The team was banned, the team was accused for using illegal software and so on.
However, in 1993 probably the wildest thing happened in Flavio’s life. Autosport published an article in their issue of 18 February 1993, with photo, of a bombing by his mansion in London. The IRA bombed his front door in the early hours. Another story that goes on the interwebs is linked with the Mafia. He had taken some money from a driver named Giovanni Bonnano, so he could test an F1 car. Bonnano tested a Benetton on a wet Silverstone and crashed it after four rounds.
March F1 Team
Huh the March F1 Team? Yes, the March F1 Team. Between September 1992 and February 1993, the team was in desperate need of a sponsor and extra money. In this period, the team came close to sign a deal with the Libyan oil company Tamoil. It was a wild roller-coaster ride for the team. As in the end it came out to be a big scam involving notorious people trying to make money. It really is a shame the team failed to find the needing funding. As they, if I recall correctly, had a warehouse full of spare parts.
Eventually the team did move to the first Grand Prix of 1993 in South Africa. The cars were there (the March CG911C) as well Lammers and Gounon who would race for the team. Sadly, there was no engine and there were tyres available. I remember that Jan Lammers paid the bills for the engines or the tyres (not sure sorry) out of his own pocket over 1992 so they could appear at the start. Sadly, It didn’t matter and the team disappeared from the grid.
There are also the stories of the 1970s and 1980s when criminals and so on used the Formula One to wash their dirty money. Or just simply to scam the shit out of people. The best example for the last one is Moneytron from Jean-Pierre Van Rossem.