Jean Alesi, born Giovanni Alesi on June 11, 1964 in Avignon, Vaucluse, France is a French racing driver of Italian origins. Jean Alesi drove a long time in F1 for Ferrari and was very popular among the tifosi.
Starting his career with a passion for Rallying rather than racing, Alesi graduated to single seaters through the French Renault 5 championship. In the late 1980s he was very much a coming man in motor racing, winning the 1988 French Formula 3 title, and following it up in 1989 with the International Formula 3000 crown, both after duels with his rival Erik Comas. Also in 1989, he made his Grand Prix debut at Paul Ricard in the French Grand Prix, finishing 4th first time out.
1990 was his first full year in Grand Prix racing, with the underfunded, unfancied Tyrrell team. At the first race in America he caused a sensation, leading the first 30 laps in front of Ayrton Senna with a car considered as inferior and re-passing him after he had been demoted. Second place in Grand Prix of Monaco was added to his second place in Phoenix, and by te end of the season all the top teams were clammering for his services in 1991. Alesi let his heart rule his head, and chose Ferrari, who had just begun a downturn in form. In 4 years at the Italian marque he gained little except the passionate devotion of the Tifosi, who loved his emotional, aggressive style. When Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996, Alesi swapped places with him, joining the champion Benetton team, who, again, were beginning to experience a lull in form. After 2 seasons and internal politics, Alesi left. In his final years in the sport, Alesi drove for midfield teams Sauber, Alain Prost and Jordan, gaining the odd podium, often in the wet where he excelled.
Flamboyant, extroverted and emotional, Jean Alesi promised a great deal but never really delivered at the top level, sometimes due to impetuosity, sometimes due to his emotional decision to join the Ferrari racing team rather than the dominant Williams team in the early 1990s, but often due to sickeningly bad luck. In his penultimate race in Formula One, at Indianapolis in 2001, he became only the fifth driver to start 200 Grand Prix races, yet from his 201 starts, he only gained one victory - an emotional triumph at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Quebec on his 31st birthday in 1995. Although the victory in itself was inherited following leader Michael Schumacher's car problems, no-one begrudged Alesi his day in the sun, particularly after several excellent but ulitimately unrewarded drives the year before, particularly in Italy.
Alesi is now a popular and successful driver in the DTM (German Touring Car Championship), where he and his Mercedes must be realistic Championship challengers in 2004.