A third to Lotus

The Roman, for the sixth consecutive season at the wheel of the Lotus, is ready for the '85 Championship after finishing third last year • Finally won the prejudice that only wanted him as a father’s son • "This year there will be much more balance on the track thanks to the tires, the same for everyone"

Translated by this website

Elio de Angelis is one of the youngest F1 drivers. Younger than him are only Andrea de Cesaris, Martin Brundle and his teammate for next season, Ayrton Senna. Scion of a rich family (his father is a builder), he made his debut in F1 at the age of 21. If the money of the rich parent may have favored him when he raced in the minor races, once he arrived among the “big” he managed to stand out thanks to his natural talent. However, he had to work hard to overcome the prejudice of the people who considered him only a father’s son.

Despite his young age, he already has the experience of a veteran: 6 full seasons for a total of 88 Grand Prix races. He made his debut in 1979 with Shadow. He has been with Lotus since 1980 and the next season will be his sixth consecutive with the English team. This year de Angelis showed full maturity and finished third in the final classification of the world championship, first of the “non-McLaren” drivers. At the start of the 1984 season, Elio told us that would be his year. He was not completely wrong also because then no one imagined the potential of the cars available to Lauda and Prost. “I consider the balance of 1984 to be positive – says de Angelis – even if we had some problems with the engines and the problem of Goodyear tires, this year inferior to those of Michelin”.

Do you think that next year the gap between Lotus and McLaren, which has practically played a championship on its own, will narrow?

Certainly yes, especially because of the tires which in ’85, except for Brabham, will be the same for everyone. I see a greater balance between the teams and an equal performance.

How do you explain the greater reliability of the Renault engines mounted on the Lotus compared to those mounted by the factory team?

It’s not a question of reliability, the engines were the same. We had a better chassis and aerodynamics, and this allowed us to use the engine less.

How do you see the next season? Which teams do you think are the favorites?

The favorites are always the same teams and Ferrari certainly. This year they had such a good season and I think that in 1985 they will come back to the surface again and forcefully. Then again Lotus, perhaps less Renault and certainly McLaren again.

What about Williams and Brabham?

Williams is a team to always keep in mind. It has the Japanese behind it who know where they want to go, and they get there. Then Patrick Head, the designer, is unlikely to make a mistake in two cars in a row and Mansell’s arrival will be very positive for the development of the car. If Brabham manages to solve the engine reliability problem, it will always be fearful.

What impression do you have of your new teammate Ayrton Senna?

Peter Warr, head of Lotus, says he’s Latin, so we should get along better than with Mansell.

Why, was there some problem with Mansell?

No, at least at the end of the season. In fact, I would have preferred Nigel to stay. Senna is a fast driver; I hope he can control himself and take advantage of all his experience at the right time.

Do you think the current earnings of a driver are fair?

No. The budgets of F1 have grown dramatically and, apart from the gains made for example by Lauda and a few others, including myself, what a driver achieves in a season I would say is very little in relation to the existing turnover.

How is your relationship with the press?

I’ve had some major problems in the past. Today, either for the performances, or for a greater understanding on the part of everyone, things have improved.

You drivers always have an agitated love life…

No, mine is quiet. I have my girlfriend, Ute, who follows me to most of the races.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I really like playing the piano and playing soccer.

What sort of music do you like?

The one that comes from the blues. For a more precise reference, I like Stevie Wonder.

Do you have many friends?

On the contrary. My circle of friends is quite restricted. My friends can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

You are now one of the most important characters in F1. The circle of high-ranking acquaintances has expanded. You can hang out with people that the public knows only through newspapers and television. Has this changed you in any way?

Absolutely not, because I was already used to this kind of knowledge and this kind of life.

Did you imagine the life of a driver to be like this?

I imagined it easier and simpler. I thought it was just a matter of driving the car and driving it well.

How many miles does a Lotus driver per year?

To tell the truth, I’ve never kept an exact calculation. Certainly, there are a lot of them. I leave it to you to do the calculations: the races, plus the same number of kilometers of qualifies and even more 50% for testing. We are certainly not reaching Ferrari levels because only they can afford so many tests.

What do you think of the regulations for the next season?

No comment.

Last year you froze petrol, therefore, in 1985 you should have a small disadvantage…

I don’t know. Certainly, less than one might think.

What kind of athletic training do you follow?

I would like to ski but by contract I had to give up this sport.

What other activities can’t you practice?

Skydiving, mountaineering and motorcycling.

What kind of contract do you have with Lotus?

My contract with Lotus will expire at the end of next year.

Do you too, like most of the drivers, hope to join Ferrari one day?

Certainly, perhaps because I started my career right there.

Do you think the moment is more favorable now?

I would say yes, now that with Michele the door has been opened to the Italian drivers. Perhaps the Commendatore is now willing to take a longer step…

Which of the drivers is your ideal teammate?

Mario Andretti. Among those currently racing in F1, Keke Rosberg. We are very good friends, and his wife and Ute are often together.

© 1985 Starter • By Ferruccio Falletti • Published for entertainment and educational purposes, no copyright infringement is intended.

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