Jarno Trulli has unleashed a scathing attack on the state of modern-day F1, accusing the sport of having 'taken an ugly turn' of late and denouncing it as an arena in which money shouts far louder than talent - with the upshot being that the general level outside of the leading four teams is, he claims, 'extremely poor'.

Trulli is one of the most experienced drivers on the current grand prix grid, having made his debut in the top flight with Minardi back in 1997. Since then, the Italian has begun 234 races at the highest level, triumphing in Monaco, ascending the rostrum on a further ten occasions and establishing a reputation as one of the very fastest drivers in the field in terms of single-lap speed.

However, as a reaction to the global credit crunch and mass manufacturer exodus in recent years, there has been an influx of smaller, independent and - with no car companies behind them - less financially-secure competitors. That trend, Trulli argues, has caused the pinnacle of the sport to lose its crown and in fact regress by a couple of decades, with well-heeled pay-drivers now the order of the day and genuine talent finding itself increasingly squeezed out.

"In the last couple of years, F1 has taken an ugly turn," the Team Lotus star told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Contracts are worth less-and-less. The only thing that interests is the big money brought by various 'little' drivers. Only four teams can guarantee excellent drivers. As for the rest, the level is extremely poor.

"Lotus is the most serious team among the newest entries, but in the event of financial troubles they, too, would need to find money. Serious as it is, our organisation is small, the marketing department isn't what you'd find in a top team and it's hard to keep going. F1 has gone back 20 years -- many small teams and a few constructors."

Trulli has already conceded that having endured what he described as the 'worst' season of his F1 career in 2010, he cannot 'suffer' another [see separate story - click here] - and he has evinced a possible future in either NASCAR, the DTM or endurance racing circles - but he is optimistic that with Renault engines, Red Bull gearboxes and the technical leadership of Mike Gascoyne, the ambitious Anglo/Malaysian outfit will take a healthy leap up the pecking order this coming year.

"My objective is to fight in the midfield and have a chance to score points," he underlined. "I knew that 2010 would be a transition year. It turned out to be worse than I had expected, but it's okay - but I won't accept to have another year like that. I don't like to show badly after a lifetime at the front."

Indeed, should Vitantonio Liuzzi be eased out of the door at Force India as is widely-anticipated - and providing his countryman does not wind up at Hispania Racing (HRT) - then Trulli will be the only Italian driver on the grid in 2011, a situation not witnessed in more than 40 years. To put that into perspective, consider that in 1990, there were 16. It is a sorry state indeed for a country with such an immense passion for the sport - and the 36-year-old knows exactly where he points the finger of blame.

"The problems are most of all to do with the economy, our mentality and Ferrari," he stressed. "Italians only care about Ferrari. Outside Italy, drivers find sponsors in their countries - Vitaly Petrov is the latest example - while at home it's a huge struggle."