This cheerful Swede had all the right credentials when he finally graduated into F1 with the fledgling Spirit-Honda team in the summer of 1983. A successful kartist, winner of the 1979 British F3 championship and an F1 pace-setter, Johansson was quick, brace and obviously talented. He was also immensely unlucky and, despite spells with Ferrari and McLaren, he never quite string all the variables together to score that elusive F1victory.
When Honda switched their engine supply contract to Williams for 1984, Johansson simply filled in as best he could, accepting occasional guest outings with Tyrrell and Toleman. In the Italian GP, standing in for the suspended Ayrton Senna, he brought the Toleman home in a fine fourth place on the strength of which he earned the number one drive with them for 1985.
Just when it seemed as though he was poised on the threshold of success, the lack of a tyre contract prompted Toleman to shelve the programme. However, Ferrari created a timely vacancy when Rene Arnoux was dropped from the line-up and Johansson took his place.
Stefan ran competitively through 1985, finishing a strong second in both Canada and Detroit, consolidating a reputation which kept him in the Maranello squad. But Ferrari’s competitiveness would wane through 1986 and a successions of problems combined with bad luck resulted in his being replaced by Gerhard Berger in 1987.
Johansson would them be selected for the prestigious number two McLaren-TAG drive alongside Alain Prost in 1987, but this was simply a question of the likeable Swede keeping the seat warm for Ayrton Senna who would join the team in 1988. From then on, Johansson drove for a succession of minor league teams before decamping to North America where he would have a measure of success as an IndyCar driver and team owner.