In his day, there were many who suggested that Patrick Depailler lacked application: he risked too much off the track and destroyed what could have been his best season, 1979, by breaking his legs in a hang-gliding accident. But he won races, and could have won more but for his fatal crash in 1980.
A fan of Jean Behra in his youth, Depailler mixed a full Formula One season with Formula Two races in 1974 – he won the European F2 title and in F1 peaked with second in Sweden. He spent the next four years with Tyrrell and finally won at Monaco in 1978 before moving to the Ligier team to partner Jacques Laffite.
Laffite made the most of the JS11 at the peak of its powers at the start of the season, winning the first two races, Depailler finally triumphing at Jarama. But after just two more rounds came his hang-gliding accident. Ligier insisted he had violated the terms of his contract and in 1980 he returned with Alfa Romeo alongside Bruno Giacomelli.
But he became another victim of the ground effect era when he shot off the Hockenheim track at the ultra-fast Ostkurve. During practice he struck the barriers where there should have been catch fencing erected – instead the fences were rolled up behind the barriers, ready to be constructed before the Grand Prix proper.