F1 » Jarno Trulli
Jarno Trulli came to Formula One with an impeccable career in junior classes behind him. He has since impressed the F1 circus with some mature and fighting displays in machinery which does not always flatter his ability, but still appears destined to win just one grand prix.
A contemporary of Giancarlo Fisichella in the highly rated kart scene of the early 1990s, Trulli is one of only a few to have progressed into a successful car racing career. Like Fisichella, he racked up many titles, including both World and European crowns, in his time in karts, before graduating straight into Formula Three.
Partnered by Fisichella in the RC Motorsport team, Trulli made his debut at the high profile British GP support race in 1994, but car problems forced him into a charging drive from the back of the field. His performance stood him in good stead, however, and a recommendation to the KMS team saw him driving in Germany the following season.
Initially competing in Class B of the competitive German F3 series, Trulli dominated proceedings, securing the title before moving into a Class A machine for selected end-of-season races. Again, he proved his natural ability by beating the regulars in one outing and going on to take second overall in the Macau F3 GP.
The 1996 German F3 title was something of a formality, and Trulli took six wins en route to his first major car racing crown. A heat win in Macau proved that the previous year had been no fluke, and attracted further attention from an already eager Formula One audience.
His first competitive Formula One outing came in a car park at the Bologna Motor Show, but he displayed enough talent behind the wheel of a Benetton for Minardi boss Giancarlo Minardi to sign him for the 1997 season ahead of the financially more attractive Tarso Marques.
Although Trulli suffered mixed fortunes at the back of the grid with Minardi, he emerged as a genuine front-running prospect when he replaced the injured Olivier Panis at Prost. Inconsistent performances in his first few races were forgotten as he confidently led the Austrian GP following the demise of both McLarens and, despite having to return the seat to Panis, before the year was over, Trulli signed to contest the 1998 season with the team.
Despite 1998 not providing the best Prost chassis, Trulli continued to attract attention from the leading teams. He was often mentioned in the same breath as a seat at Williams, but remained focused on improving Prost's season. This was only achieved when he took a single point at the sodden Belgian GP, as the team struggled with unreliability.
Trulli remained with the French team for 1999, but like the highly-rated Panis, was stymied by reliability problems. The Prost technical team delivered a less complex machine for the year, but a solitary second place at the Nurburgring was all Trulli had to show for his efforts.
Despite Prost's hopes of keeping the Italian for another year, Trulli jumped at the chance to replace Damon Hill at Jordan for 2000.
Paired with a resurgent Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the youngster had his work cut out dealing with the less than successful EJ10, but featured at the front on several occasions when the car allowed, including an appearance on the front row at Monaco after an inspired qualifying lap. Tenth in the championship was poor reward for his efforts, however, and Trulli could not better the fourth-place finish he achieved at round two in Brazil.
The Italian remained at Jordan for 2001, convinced that the now Honda-powered EJ11 could only be an improvement over the 2000 car. Testing times showed both car and driver to be close to the leading midfield pace, but Trulli was to be frustrated once again when the season started in earnest.
Still an occasional flyer in qualifying, the Italian seemed to lose his momentum in races, clocking a best finish of fourth on two occasions (Spain and USA), but again failing to break onto the podium. Good for top six finishes when he wasn't retiring, however, Trulli ended the season in ninth overall, and was still a target for envious eyes.
This led to an end-of-season 'struggle' for his services, after manager Flavio Briatore exercised an option on the Italian on behalf of Renault. Although Trulli was initially reluctant to leave Jordan for what, on 2001 form, was a lower ranking team, he appeared in a different set of yellow overalls for 2002.
Given Renault's pedigree in F1 - and the rate at which the company is known to develop its programmes in the formula - the move proved to be a good one. While the Jordan team struggled, Renault finished the 2002 season with 23 points (compared to Jordan's 9), Trulli's best performances - two fourth places (at Monaco and Monza), one fifth (at Indy) and one sixth place (at Montreal).
His true form though was again in qualifying and it was here that he consistently outperformed his team-mate, Jenson Button. Indeed the Italian beat the Brit 12-5, and was within the top ten 13 times in 17 attempts, his best sixth on the grid in Brazil and at Hungary.
For 2003 he had a new team-mate in the form of Fernando Alonso, and although both got on well, it was Trulli who was overshadowed - Alonso scoring the team's first win since reforming and also consequently taking much of the glory. Trulli in contrast notched up just 33 points in total, 22 less than Alonso, his best finish a third place at the German GP, to add to nine other points finishes - three of which were fifth places in Australia, Malaysia and Japan. Eighth place in the drivers' championship overall then was a disappointing result, especially as Alonso achieved so much more.
Trulli continued with Renault in 2004, initally doing well, notching up lots of points before eventually taking his first pole and race win at Monte Carlo. After that his season went down hill, and team boss, Braitore became increasingly frustrated with the Italian, the result - the two went their seperate ways with three grand's prix still to go.
Shortly afterwards Trulli signed a deal with Toyota for 2005, and later it was revealed that he would step into the hot seat early, replacing Ricardo Zonta in Japan and Olivier Panis in Brazil. Having got to grips with the team early, he was hoping to hit the ground running in 2005 - and indeed he did.
His first season with Toyota was more than successful and he started off the year very strongly, taking Toyota's first ever F1 podium finish in Malaysia, when he came home in second place. He followed that up with another podium in Bahrain and a third in Spain. In total Trulli scored 43 points during the year, finishing in the top eight on nine occasions.
Trulli shined most though in qualifying and he frequently put the TF105 in places it really didn't deserve to be, including 13 places in the top 5. In total, he beat Ralf, his team-mate more often than not, out-qualifying him 15-4.
Towards the end of the year though Trulli's star waned somewhat, and he struggled to get to grips with the TF105B, which was introduced for the final two races. The result was that Ralf just piped Trulli in terms of points earned by the season end - the German scoring 2 points more to take sixth place in the drivers' championship.
With Toyota revelling in their long-awaited breakthrough year, Trulli maintained his place in the squad for 2006 in the hope that he would be able to take the team one better and give them the first win they had been craving since entering in 2002.
However, the start of 2006 proved a massive come down compared to their 2005 form, with both Trulli and team-mate Schumacher struggling over the first few races of the season; a far cry from their podiums at the same point the year before.
However, while drastic improvements to the car saw Schumacher get a podium in Australia, Trulli remained pointless up until the Canadian Grand Prix, even if he had managed to put his 'qualifying-master' status to good use on various occasions when he hauled his troublesome car into the top ten in six of the first ten races.
Trulli's finest moment of the season though did not come until round eleven and the United States Grand Prix when he secured a much needed fourth place finish, a result he claimed in style having started from the pit lane.
The next race at Magny-Cours was also set to see Trulli on the podium until a mechanical issue intervened, but points followed at Hockenheim, Monza and Suzuka. Nonetheless, reliability problems, normally a Toyota strong point, continued to dog Trulli's season with 12th in the standings the result - a significant drop from the seventh he managed in 2006.
Nonetheless, Trulli returned for another attempt in 2007 after announcing at the German Grand Prix that he had signed a three-year extension with Toyota, surprising those who thought he was set to retire.
Year one of the deal proved to be disappointing as Toyota again failed to produce a car worthy of its investment in F1. The Italian ended the year 13th overall, with just eight points, and a best result of sixth at Indianapolis. It was qualifying where Trulli was again able to show his potential, not least in Canada, where he defied repeated upright failures to make the top ten, despite not being allowed by the team to use the kerbs necessary for a quick time.
Seeing fellow veterans Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher edging towards the end of their grand prix careers, Trulli is aware that time is not on his side, but he was retained by Toyota to provide an experienced head alongside F1 returnee Timo Glock for 2008, and found that the TF108 was a better car than he had endured in previous seasons.
A consistent points scorer throughout the season, starting with an impressive fourth place in Malaysia and highlighted by a battling third place at the French Grand Prix in the days after the death of inaugural team principal Ove Andersson, Trulli justified Toyota’s faith in him by finishing the year ninth overall, with 31 points.
With the Cologne-based team opting for an unchanged line-up as F1 moved into a new rules phase for 2009, Trulli was given the chance to extend his career beyond the 200-start mark, but the clock continued to tick and, with Toyota top brass in Japan expecting a breakthrough win to justify their outlay on the sport, the pressure remained.
Despite being armed with one of the few cars to start the year with a double diffuser, however, Toyota again found itelf unable to challenge regularly at the front and, even though it locked out the front row in Bahrain, with Trulli on pole, it also found itself at the back of the grid in Monaco. In fairness, the Italian did take two podium finishes in the first four races, with third in both Australia and Bahrain, but the season petered out into a series of indifferent results, with only second place in Japan of any note.
That result was no doubt aimed at impressing the hierarchy but came to late to prevent the plug finally being pulled on the F1 programme just days after the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Trulli finished the year eighth overall, but found himself having to look for another drive.
Although he admitted that he would have stayed at Toyota given the chance, and in spite of testing the NASCAR waters, the veteran jumped at the chance to rejoin Mike Gascoyne - with whom he had shared three teams previously - at the new Lotus project, teaming with Heikki Kovalainen for 2010. Although he knew that he would be fighting at the 'wrong' end of the field, for a while at least, Trulli insisted that he was looking forward to the challenge, no doubt happy to still be able to call himself a grand prix driver.
Despite Lotus proving to be the best of the three newcomers, however, Trulli still ended up calling 2010 'the worst' of his career, after niggling reliability problems blighted a lot of promising races. Seven DNFs and a non-start underlined the Italian's frustration, as he finished 21st overall, one place behind Kovalainen.
Lotus did, however, finish tenth in the constructors' table, earning precious prize money and, although it took time for himk to be officially confirmed by Tony Fernandes' outfit, Trulli remained onboard for 2011, armed with a T128 that benefitted from Renault power and Red Bull rear-end technology.
Although Lotus extended the gap over Marussia Virgin and HRT, it also found the corresponding margin to the midfield remaining a little too big to bridge, tempering pre-season dreams on scoring its first points. Trulli also struggled with the car's power steering system, even sitting out the German GP while waiting for a revised version to arrive, but still managed to pip team-mate Kovalainen in the final standings, by dint of claiming two 13th place finishes to the Finn's one.
Missing the Nurburgring did little to curb suggestions that Trulli's time in the top flight may be nearing an end, but the Italian was able to announce an extension to his contract at Monza - although the wording of the accompanying statement failed to categorically mention a race drive, paving the way for further speculation, with several drivers being linked to his seat.
As things stood just weeks before the opening round, Trulli remained a part of Caterham's campaign, even testing the new CT-01 on the final day of testing at Jerez, but a lot can change in a little time, and it was duly announced that Vitaly Petrov would be taking his place alongside Kovalainen for 2012, potentially bringing the curtain down on another F1 career.