Chanoch Nissany may well be a contender for the worst Formula 1 test driver of all time.
The Israeli was originally a very successful businessman who had a seemingly impossible dream of being a Formula 1 driver. Yet, albeit with the help of some substantial funding, Nissany realised this ambition in 2005.
Nissany took up racing as a hobby pretty late in his career; he was already 38 when he entered the Formula 2000 Hungarian National Championship in 2002. Whilst the quality of the competition can be debated, Nissany did impress at that level, finishing runner up in the championship in his rookie season before taking commanding titles in 2003 and 2004.
Nissany’s stature in Hungary had risen so high that Coloni Motorsport were willing to give him a ride in a Formula 3000 car, the modern-day equivalent of GP2, for the final 3 races of the 2004 season. Unfortunately for Coloni and Nissany, the then 41-year-old could only manage two non-finishes at his hometown Hungaroring and Spa before an unremarkable 12th place finish in the final round at Monza. This was hardly the usual pedigree for a Formula One test drive.
Despite that, after the Israeli used his financial clout to secure 4 private test sessions, 2 with Jordan and 2 with Minardi, on February 2, 2005, Chanoch Nissany’s dream came true and he was announced as Minardi’s official test driver for the 2005 season.
Nissany was not finished there however. With the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend falling around his 42nd birthday, he and his personal sponsor UPEX sensed a PR opportunity and convinced Minardi owner Paul Stoddart to run in Friday practice as Minardi’s third driver.
Hungarian media were excited to see a local driver in the event, and so Nissany went out in the first Friday practice session for his official F1 debut.
Unfortunately for the Hungarian fans, Nissany was slow, really slow. Trundling around 13 seconds off the pace, the birthday boy came over the radio to tell the team he was coming in. The reason – “I have too much grip!”.
Indeed, Chanoch Nissany was almost certainly the first and the only driver to complain about the Minardi PS05 being too quick. Unsurprisingly Nissany’s day ended in the gravel trap after a spin and with it, his Formula One career as well.
Nissany was subsequently replaced by the Italian Enrico Toccacelo and returned to the Formula 2000 Hungarian National Championship, where he would win a further 3 titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009 before retiring at the end of the 2014 season at the grand old age of 51.
Whilst Nissany’s F1 dream had ended in humiliation, he will be able to tell his grandchildren that thanks to his hard work, he was able to take part in an official Formula 1 Grand Prix and no one will be able to take that away from him.