Philippe Streiff, who reached the Formula 1 podium at his sixth attempt before his career was cut short by injury, has died at the age of 67.
The French racer competed in sports cars and showed promise in the European Formula 3 championship before moving up to Formula 2. He scored a breakthrough win in 1984 for Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives – better known as AGS – and was picked by Renault to make his F1 debut the same year.
Streiff drove a third Renault at the Portuguese Grand Prix in 1984. The following year he was hired mid-season by Guy Ligier, who had lost patience with his regular driver Andrea de Cesaris following a series of crashes.
Over a five-race run at the end of the season, Streiff brought his Renault-powered car home four times and grabbed the opportunity to take the best result of his career in the season finale. However he did so after tangling with team mate Jacques Laffite, despite instructions from the pit wall for the pair to avoid each other as they circulated inside the podium places over the final laps. Streiff dragged his JS25 to the line, its front wheels askew following the contact.
With Rene Arnoux joining the team for 1986, there was no place for Streiff, but he found a berth at Tyrrell, who also used Renault engines. After a promising seventh in his first race for the team, two places behind team mate Martin Brundle, Streiff managed a pair of points finishes over the course of the season. He ended his first full season in F1 13th in the standings, also two places behind Brundle.
In 1987 the team traded Cosworth DFV power for Renault turbos, and points were even scarcer. However he and team mate Jonathan Palmer were strong contenders for the new Jim Clark Cup, a one-off trophy awarded to the top driver in a normally-aspirated car. The pair were regularly among the first two non-turbos home, but Palmer narrowly held the upper hand in the contest and took the trophy. Streiff had the distinction of taking the team’s best result of the season with fourth place at the Hockenheimring.
For 1988 he returned to AGS, which had entered F1 two years earlier, but suffered a disastrously uncompetitive 1987 season with its JH22 chassis. Streiff was enlisted to drive its replacement in 1988, but their season was little better. The car seldom finished and when it did reach the chequered flag it usually did so several laps behind the winner.
Streiff continued with the team, but their preparations took a disastrous turn in pre-season testing at the Jacarepagua circuit in Brazil early in 1989. He crashed heavily and suffered serious injuries which left him paralysed for the rest of his life.
Following his recovery, Streiff founded a karting event for F1 drivers which was held for several years in Paris and attracted the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. He also commentated on motorsport for French television.
Brundle recalled Streiff as a “lovely guy” who was “very stylish in and out of the car.” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said he was “saddened” to learn of his passing.
“He showed incredible guts and determination throughout his life,” said Domenicali. “The way he overcame his accident and rebuilt his life was inspirational. We all send our condolences to his family at this sad time.”
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