Former F1 racer Riccardo Patrese has called on Ferrari to help the next generation of Italian driver to make it onto the F1 grid.

The announcement that Jarno Trulli is to be replaced by Vitaly Petrov in the Caterham line-up means there will be no Italian driver on the grid for the year ahead - the first time that has been the case since the 1970s.

Although he admitted that the time was probably right for Trulli's time on the grid to come to an end, Patrese said it was disappointing that there will be no Italian representation amongst the 2012 drivers and called on Ferrari to do something to help.

"Why this has happened, I don't know," he wrote on his personal website. "Jarno Trulli has had time at the top, but he has been racing at the back for a while and maybe it is better for him to stay at home rather than continue like this. I hope some young Italians can come into F1 in the future.

"We know how important the Ferrari team is. I remember Imola in 1983 when the fans cheered when I crashed because a Ferrari - not an Italian driver - was going to win.

"The best three drivers now are Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton, but maybe Ferrari - if they wanted - could have an Italian as the second driver in the team, particularly as Massa hasn't looked good in the last couple of seasons. They could take a small risk to take a young Italian driver, but this hasn't happened since the time of Michele Alboreto.

"Italian drivers don't get help from a team. Ferrari have their driver academy where the Italian F1 champion gets an F1 test but nothing seems to happen after that. I think there are good young Italian drivers but they need to be given the opportunity to prove their ability."