De Angelis was born in Rome. His father Giulio was a notable inshore and offshore motorboat racer.
After a brief spell with karts, he went on to win the Italian Formula Three Championship in 1977. In 1978 he raced in Formula 2 for Minardi and then for the ICI British F2 Team, he also competed in one round of the British Formula One championship and won the prestious Monaco F3 race.
His debut F1 season was in 1979 with Shadow. He finished 7th in his maiden Grand Prix in Argentina and closed 15th in the championship with 3 points. In 1980 he switched to Lotus and - at the age of 21 - nearly became the youngest Grand Prix winner of all time when he finished a tantalising second at the 1980 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. His first victory came in the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix at the Osterreichring, only 0.05 seconds ahead of Keke Rosberg. The win was the last hailed by Colin Chapman's famous act of throwing his cloth cap into the air. Chapman died in December that year and Peter Warr became the new Lotus team manager.
In 1983 Lotus switched from the Cosworth DFV they had been using since 1967, to Renault turbo engines, but it was a disappointing season. De Angelis' best result was a fifth place in the 1983 Italian Grand Prix. In 1984 De Angelis had a much better season, scoring a total of 34 points and finishing third in the standings with three podiums. His best result was a second place at the Detroit Grand Prix, de Angelis was the only driver to finish in the top 5 in 1984 not to score a race win, showing his consistent performances throughout the season with the improving Lotus-Renault.
In 1985, De Angelis was joined by Ayrton Senna. De Angelis' second win came in the third race of the season, at the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix after 'winner' Alain Prost was disqualified when his McLaren MP4/2B was disqualified for being 2 kg underweight (Senna had won the previous race in Portugal, his first F1 win, in atrocious conditions). Elio also placed third at the opening race in Brazil and claimed his last F1 pole position in Canada. He finished fifth in the championship, with 33 points, five points behind his team mate. However, de Angelis left Lotus at the end of the season when it became clear the team's efforts were being focused on the younger and faster Senna. De Angelis' drive for 1986 was with Brabham, as a replacement for twice World Champion Nelson Piquet, who had moved to Williams to join de Angelis' former Lotus team mate Nigel Mansell. Fellow Italian Riccardo Patrese was his team mate at Brabham.
The 1986 Brabham-BMW, the BT55, was a radically designed car with a very low cross section. However, with a modified BMW engine, it was not effective and could not arrest Brabham's swift decline. It quickly became clear that 1986 would not be the year the team recaptured its form of the early 1980s. Nevertheless, de Angelis pushed his hardest to help develop the car.
Read more about this topic: Elio De Angelis
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