7th October 1978: Of the 10 drivers who have entered the most Formula 1 races, Riccardo Patrese stands out as the only one whose career was mostly in the 20th century, when the seasons were much shorter.
He retired in 1993 as a well-respected veteran – something you never would have thought possible back in his first few seasons.
In 1978, so frequent were his dangerous manoeuvres that, spurred into action by the tragic death of Ronnie Peterson in a Monza pile-up, senior drivers including Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt sent a telex to the organiser of the US Grand Prix East saying they wouldn’t race unless the Arrows driver were barred.
This unprecedented move for a while looked set to strip the Watkins Glen race of its championship status or get it cancelled.
Despite a meeting at which Patrese admitted his past mistakes, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association stated a ban was “the only possible and fair method of dealing with the matter”.
The 24-year-old Italian’s reaction was to seek legal advice from a local judge, much to the alarm of the other drivers and teams, but his case was dismissed. Arrows diplomatically decided to withdraw him.
Yet the story didn’t finish there, as Ferrari declared it considered Patrese’s ban illegal, reigniting the chance of the race being stripped of its championship status – ultimately unsuccessfully.
Although he was furious about it at the time, Patrese has since acknowledged that the ban changed his mentality for the better.
Since then, just six other drivers have been banned from entering a grand prix.