from Autocar & Motor 25 May 1994

Riccardo Patrese, Grand Prix racing's all-time most experienced driver is finished with Formula 1.

Riccardo Patrese

Scotching rumours that he was a serious candidate on Frank Williams' list as a possible successor to Ayrton Senna, he said: "Sometimes you really need the strength to say it's over."

The 40-year-old veteran of 256 Grands Prix starts finally took the decision not to pursue a return to the sport's senior category on Tuesday of last week, the 17th anniversary of his F1 debut in the 1977 Monaco Grand Prix.

Despite finishing sixth in the 1993 World Championship, Patrese was dropped as Michael Schumacher's team-mate in the Benetton line-up at the end of last season. He nevertheless remained determined to return to F1 until the tragic San Marino Grand Prix earlier this month.

Speaking from his home in Padua, Italy, Patrese said: "I have decided today not to race in F1 any more."

"Yes, I talked with Frank Williams informally, but nothing more than that. He didn't ask me to drive and the conversation didn't get to the point where we talked about that."

"I had a lot of passion for Formula 1 up to Imola. But that six months away from the cockpit had taught me that life outside is completely different, but it does exist. When you are totally wrapped up in Grand Prix racing, you don't appreciate that there are other things in life.

"You just can't imagine having such a relaxed time until you actually stop. After Imola and Monaco I found myself wondering whether, if I came back to F1, I could regain the inner tranquillity which I enjoyed at Williams back in 1991 - and which I felt would be necessary to make it all worthwhile."

"My son Simone was born on the day I first drove the Shadow at Monaco and, ironically, I decided that I was finished with F1 on the day before his 17th birthday. I've had a good run in this business, I think."

After driving for Shadow in 1977, he switched to the newly formed Arrows squad the following year and stayed until the end of 1981. Two years with Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team followed, with wins at Monaco (1982) and Kyalami (1983).

In 1984-85 he drove for the Alfa Romeo works team, then moved back to Brabham for 1986-87 before joining Williams, where he stayed for five years from 1988, winning another four Grands Prix.

"Riccardo was a lovely guy to work with," said Ecclestone last week. "He was extremely talented and should have won many more races than he did. But for much of his career he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Williams technical director Patrick Head echoed those sentiments. "You always felt you were working with the real Riccardo," he said. "Every now and then he would get a bit excitable, but he never fundamentally changed. He is a really genuine person, a Good Man and True, no doubt about it."

Patrese says he will consider racing touring cars in the future, either in the DTM or Italian championship.

"I went to Hockenheim earlier this season to watch Alessandro Nannini racing in the DTM," he says wistfully, "but I never really thought that I might do it because I was still thinking about F1. Now things are different..."