Alesi reveals the unexpected friend who led him to Ferrari

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Almost thirty years after passing through the gates of Maranello, former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi revealed the identity of the man who actually negotiated his contract with the Scuderia.

Alesi was man on the rise in the early 90s, having spent his first two formative years in F1 with Ken Tyrrell, a period during which the Frenchman showcased his undeniable talent, finishing fourth on his Grand Prix debut in France and memorably sparring with Ayrton Senna the year after in Phoenix.

Impressed by Alesi's speed and spirit, Williams had shortlisted the young charger for 1991.

But it was one of his rivals at the time, a man he had befriended when he arrived in F1, who would pave the way for Alesi's recruitment by Ferrari.

"Nelson Piquet was fantastic with me from day 1 in Formula 1," recounted Alesi in Tom Clarkson's latest 'Beyond the Grid' podcast.

"It's a story that nobody knows but it was him who made the contract between Ferrari and myself."

Indeed, the Brazilian driver who was racing with Benetton at the time acted as Alesi's improvised manager and even drew up an agreement that included a valuable perk.

"I have at home a Ferrari F40, because on the contract he [Piquet] put 'Ferrari F40' as a gift from Ferrari. I said to Nelson 'I can't give that to the President of Ferrari'.

"He said 'Shut up and give that', and no I have the F40 thanks to Nelson who made the contract with me."

"At the time, nobody had a lawyer or a manager, we were just talking directly to the people.

"When you are coming from Avignon and the year before you were working with your father in a garage, it's very difficult to have in front of you Frank Williams or di Montezemolo, and to say 'I would like to have this kind of money, this position in the team, a spare car and a present from the factory' - that is very tough.


"Nelson had already almost finished his career, and I was as a friend explaining who wanted to have me in their team. And he said 'Okay, let me do the contract for you'.

"When he showed me the papers I said, 'Nelson, I cannot give that to the president of Ferrari, he will laugh and take somebody else'. He said 'Give it to him!'.

"So I gave it to him [to Luca di Montezemolo] and I remember the president read it and then he looked at me and said 'For a young driver you know what to put [in your contract]'!"

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