In the run up to the 1991 Championship Modena and his Tyrrell team were being tipped as title contenders. This was mainly to do with Ken Tyrrell being prepared to suffer Satoru Nakajima in exchange for Honda engines, but Modena was one of the first drivers to shoulder the ‘next Ayrton Senna‘ reputation.
He made his first Formula One start with Brabham at the end of 1987 but when the team quit Formula One he was stuck with the hopeless EuroBrun for 1988. Back with Brabham in 1989 the Italian was a strong match for Martin Brundle and picked up many of the better results, partly by dint of having the more reliable car. Brabham went backwards the next year so Ken Tyrrell scooped the promising Modena as a replacement for Jean Alesi.
For various reasons the results never came, and when it looked like they would (such as at Monaco) the car failed. For 1992 he moved to Jordan who were mired in second year blues with dire Yamaha engines. It was his last year in Formula One.
His seemingly unbelievable levels of superstition ranged from the mundane (wearing odd boots and a glove inside out, insisting on strapping himself into the cockpit) to the frankly bizarre (asking to swap sides of the garage with his team-mate).
But his inability to get through a race distance, at times retiring due to tiredness, did not endear himself so well to potential team bosses.