Padraig O'Connell

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Padraig O'Connell
Nationality Flag of Ireland svg.png Irish
Born 21 June 1955
Dublin, Ireland
F1RGP2C
Debut Season 1994
Latest Season 1995
Current Team
Car Number 27
Former Teams Ferrari
Races 33
Championships 0
Victories 4
Podiums 12
Points 87
Pole Positions 0
Fastest Laps 0
First Race 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix
First Victory 1994 Pacific Grand Prix
Last Victory 1995 European Grand Prix
Last Race 1995 Australian Grand Prix
Best Finish 3rd - 48 points
F1RGP79C
Debut Season 1979 Formula One season
Latest Season 1979 Formula One season
Current Team Rebaque
Car Number 33
Former Teams None
Races 4
Championships 0
Victories 0
Podiums 0
Points 2
Pole Positions 0
Fastest Laps 0
First Race 1979 Austrian Grand Prix
First Victory None
Last Victory None
Last Race 1979 European Grand Prix
Best Finish N/A


Padraig O'Connell (born June 21, 1955 in Dublin, Ireland) was a professional racing driver who competed in the F1RGP2C, Formula One and various other forms of motorsport. He retired from single-seaters in 1995 and from racing altogether in 2000 after a 33-year career.

Career

Early Career

Padraig O'Connell entered the lower rungs of the British karting system in 1967. He quickly progressed up the ranks and joined Formula Vee in 1973, winning the Formula Super Vee Championship. O'Connell gained sponsorship from British Petroleum and entered Formula 2 in 1975. After spending three mildly successful years there, BP gained O'Connell a drive in 1978 for the Shadow Formula 1 team. O'Connell was ineffective in his lone season at the team as Shadow's fortunes took a nosedive. O'Connell's best finish at shadow was an eighth place at the 1978 South African Grand Prix. O'Connell left the sinking Shadow ship to join Team Rebaque, as a test driver. However, when Shadow's fortunes began to pick up mid-season, after securing a turbo engine and Ford works status, O'Connell began to feel he had made the wrong decision. He had to wait until the 1979 Austrian Grand Prix to get his next race start. Marc Surer had been injured in a horrifying crash the previous round, so O'Connell was in the car for the rest of the season. A new chassis developed by Penske helped both Rebaques make the grid, and O'Connell was up to 10th position at one point, before having to retire after an accident with Alain Prost. Three races later at Brands Hatch, O'Connell was able to take Rebaque's second points finish with a brilliant seventh place.

A Reject Like no Other

After the Rebaque disaster, O'Connell (and his large pockets) was hired by the Osella team in 1981 but he only competed in two races (DNQing in one) before being fired in favor of Jean-Pierre Jarier. O'Connell had actually traveled to Brands Hatch to compete in his home race with Osella before his contract was unceremoniously terminated. He decided to race anyway and secured a customer Williams chassis. He did not qualify and O'Connell did not return to Formula One until the 1983 season, filling his time with an equally unsuccessful rallying career. By this point, all sponsorship money had dried up and he had no real way to get back into the sport. Then, in 1983, Corrado Fabi caught a stomach virus that left him vomiting in the hotel before the 1983 South African Grand Prix. Padraig O'Connell was in town as a guest of Frank Williams and he was drafted in to start at Kyalami. He did not qualify and he would not attempt to qualify for a Formula One race for five years.

Wilderness Years, Advertising and Return to Racing

At this point, O'Connell was quite distraught over his complete failure in single-seaters. After some serious reflection, O'Connell left for the safety of America and became one of the many European drivers to migrate to the IndyCar World Series (run by CART). Padraig was hired by the Colonial Bread/Arciero Racing team to partner Pete Halsmer. Somehow, Padraig O'Connell finished second at the Montreal race and gained the attention of many in the United States. O'Connell spent one more year at Arciero before he was given another offer in Formula One by the Zakspeed team for a test. He then returned to America to compete in the Indy 500.

In qualifying for the race, O'Connell lost control in Turn 3 and slammed into the wall. The crash shattered his arm and he was unable to drive a car for almost two years after a series of surgeries. In the meantime, Padraig started O'Connell Advertising. The advertising firm would turn out to be very profitable and O'Connell was able to sell his stake in the company in 1990 for a large sum of money. In 1988, O'Connell was given another test at Zakspeed. While he was in the paddock, O'Connell spoke to Enzo Coloni. Coloni offered O'Connell a drive at the Coloni team at the British GP at Silverstone. O'Connell accepted but again failed to qualify. He then returned to finish the IndyCar season in America.

Life, Failure, Ferrari

After another season in IndyCar, O'Connell was again offered a drive at a terrible Formula One team in 1990. This time, Life Racing Engines offered O'Connell (now quite well off after the sale of his ad company) a drive. O'Connell only drove for two races at the Life team, failing to qualify for both of them. After this, O'Connell refused to ever race in Formula One again and returned to America where he spent the next three years. O'Connell was again blessed with poor machinery and his best finish over the three year period was a fifth place at Michigan. Then, in 1994, O'Connell received a letter from, of all people, Ferrari, asking him to compete in the 1994 F1RGP2C season. The new series was looking for any talent and O'Connell was a perfect fit at Ferrari. They announced his shock hiring in a press conference in February. However, the series' founders (a bunch of Russian businessmen) ditched the effort, leaving the entire job in doubt. Luckily, Tristan Jung stepped into the void and revived the series and O'Connell got his job.

F1RGP2C

1994

Padraig O'Connell quickly proved that if he had had the proper machinery, he would have been a great driver. It only took two races for his first victory, winning the 1994 F1RGP2C Pacific Grand Prix after a hire attrition race left the Ferrari driver in the lead. Despite a long non-finish streak in the middle of the season, O'Connell would take two more victories at the German Grand Prix and the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix. In Germany, O'Connell held off John Zimmer in the Benetton for over thirty laps to win. In Japan, O'Connell survived a chaotic last few laps in which he took the lead from his teammate and half the field ran out of fuel to win by over a minute. O'Connell's great success lead him to third place in the Drivers' Championship and Ferrari to third place in the Constructors'. Seatholder Luca de Montmelo eagerly signed him for next year.

1995

The 1995 F1RGP2C season brought great expectations for O'Connell and Ferrari. The John Barnard designed 412T2 chassis was one of the best cars in pre-season testing and O'Connell hoped to bring more wins and podiums for Ferrari. For the most part, O'Connell succeeded in his mission. He started out the year in fine form, taking two podiums in the first two races. However, poor reliability (a problem that would dog the Ferraris for the whole season) began to take its tole. O'Connell failed to finish in the next three races but rebounded in France with a fourth place finish. He then took back-to-back second places at his home race in Great Britain and Germany.

O'Connell would only finish three of the next eight races but all his finishes were on the podium. At Belgium, Padraig was leading the race after John Zimmer retired but he crashed out midway through the race. After a second place in Italy in front of the tifosi, Padraig finally won his first race of the season at the 1995 European Grand Prix at Jerez. Once again, John Zimmer took himself out of contention by spinning twice and O'Connell took a comfortable win. O'Connell finished third in the Drivers' Championship once again, defeating Kazuhiko Takagi on tiebreakers. O'Connell definitively outpaced his teammate Tom Douglas. The two combined to bring Ferrari to third in the Constructors' Championship. At the 1995 Duel in the Desert, O'Connell came from fifteenth on the grid to finish in second, taking fastest lap on the way. It was a satisfying end to his career and O'Connell decided to retire. His retirement added to the Ferrari exodus of 1995 as Barnard, O'Connell and seat holder Luca de Montmelo left the team.

Complete Formula 1 results

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 WDC Points
1979 Penske Team Rebaque PR-01 Ford Cosworth DFV ARG BRA RSA USW ESP BEL MON FRA GBR GER AUT
Ret
NED
Ret
ITA
12
EUR
7
CAN
11
USA
Ret
AUS
Ret
31st 2
1980 Penske Team Rebaque PR02 Ford Cosworth DFV AUS
Ret
RSA
DNQ
BRA
DNQ
BEL
DNQ
FRA
DNQ
MON
4
SUI
DNQ
USA
Ret
CAN
7
IRE
GBR
GER
EUR
AUT
ITA
JAP
USE
15 3

Complete Formula 1 Rejects Grand Prix 2 Championship results

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 NC WDC Points
1994 Ferrari 412T1 Ferrari 043 V12 BRA
Ret
PAC
1
SMR
Ret
MON
Ret
ESP
Ret
CAN
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
Ret
GER
1
HUN
Ret
BEL
3
ITA
3
POR
Ret
EUR
6
JPN
1
AUS
18*
NC
Ret
3rd 39
1995 Ferrari 412T2 Ferrari 044/1 3.0 V12 BRA
2
ARG
3
SMR
4
MON
Ret
ESP
Ret
CAN
Ret
FRA
4
GBR
2
GER
2
HUN
Ret
BEL
Ret
ITA
2
POR
Ret
EUR
1
JPN
3
PAC
Ret
AUS
Ret
NC
2
3rd 48