"What I'm telling you is purely the truth, I don't like lies. I'm just being realistic about things. What people didn't realise is that I chose not to drive. I gave the team a chance to survive by getting in a pay-driver..." - Jarno Trulli.

Jarno Trulli is in a good mood and happy to share the memories of the twilight years of his career. Despite it being over a year since he last sat in a F1 car, the affable Italian is not missing the 'strange business' that is F1, and certainly does not miss the last two years at the back of the grid with the then Lotus - now Caterham - team.

Trulli could be forgiven a sense of bitterness given his replacement, Vitaly Petrov came to the Tony Fernandez-owned outfit with a suitcase full of Roubles, but he insists that whilst he was disappointed with the way the team informed him over the telephone that his tenure with them had come to an abrupt end, he bears no malice to anyone; something that garnered him the tag as the 'nicest guy in F1' over a career that spanned 15 years.

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"I realised that we [Caterham] were only going backwards instead of forwards and that the team had no chance for the future," he begins. "So given that the team was not paying me, I wasn't so disappointed when they told me I wasn't driving because I'd already tested the car, and it was no different [to its predecessor the 2011 Lotus T128, with which Trulli struggled as he could not 'feel' the car due to its power steering].

"You know, me driving there would not have changed much [within the team], or my life, or my career. What people didn't realise is that I chose not to drive, even though I had a contract in place. I gave the team a change to survive by getting in a pay-driver."

With that decision, another - along with Rubens Barrichello - one of the most popular drivers in the sport, had been moved aside for someone with bigger pockets (and arguably less ability) in 2012. Remember that Trulli had long been described as the 'fastest man over one lap'.

Although now the Italian is enjoying the 'nice and quiet life' of tending to his vineyards in his home region of Pescara, his hotel in Davos and 'various other business interests around the world', he has had time to sit back and reflect on the sport that once upon a time, earned him a handsome sum. Never one to provide bullshit 'stock' F1 answers and always be readable by his emotions, the 38-year old is quick to opine on the current state of F1, and believes it is 'not doing very well'; an opinion which he has formed for two reasons.

"The biggest mistake F1 has made in the last 15 years," he believes, "was to not listen to the constructors and leave them alone." It is worth noting that Trulli enjoyed the most successful years of his career with both Renault (with whom he won the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix) and from 2005 to 2009, enjoyed varied levels of success with Toyota. "In my opinion, there is no competition without the manufacturers and only a few teams at the moment can ensure a good competitive car.

"You see, when we had the manufacturers, of course there was always a better team and a car that dominated, but throughout the season or the following, they were always hoping [to] and had the resources to catch up. But now, in this current era of F1, this is almost impossible because there is no manufacturer [run-teams]; we have just Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault who is an engine supplier."

In a quick reference to the past, Trulli is quick to highlight an additional benefit of having a manufacturer run team, is that they had the side project of selling cars in order to attract investment.

"Back in my time, you were telling the world "Oh, look! We have two good drivers, so please follow and invest in us, because we have good potential."

"Now it is completely the opposite, it's 'we'll launch the car, but about the drivers? We don't care'. I would say that probably 70 per cent of the teams out there are struggling financially, so given the economic crisis, they need to survive somehow."

This is where the subject of the 'pay-driver' arises, and given the circumstances under which he left F1, it is something close to Trulli's heart. Furthermore, given his former position as a director of the GPDA - the Grand Prix Driver's Association, which deals with sporting matters - issues surrounding drivers are not subjects from which he will shy away.

"I feel sad for young drivers because so many times, good, young drivers don't have sponsorship, so nowadays they have very little chance to reach F1," and he is quick to point out compatriot and Audi DTM driver Edoardo Mortara as an example. "I think I told people last year or two years ago, 'listen, there is the this guy, who in my opinion, one Italian driver who is leading races in DTM and could probably be another Italian F1 star, but he doesn't have the budget'. It's crazy that one driver has to bring money to race. Most of the drivers now [due to healthy sponsorship packages] are paying to drive, and when you pay to drive, it is not a good tendency. Before, most of the drivers who reached F1, reached it because of their driving skills. Now I can't see that. F1 has just become a 'luxury rent-a-car'.

Whilst he accepts that 'the sport has always been a business', Trulli believes that this is the case more than ever, and is quick to suggest that the backmarker teams have not helped this situation.

Implying that the new teams place an emphasis on cash over talent, he turns the interview around. "Ask yourself, what are they [the new teams] bringing to F1? If you have an answer, well alright... but we are supposed to race young drivers, but at the moment we are not racing young drivers; we are racing only paying drivers and then he might be old or young, but he is still a pay driver. There could be another driver without the money who could actually do a better job than the pay-driver, but he cannot race in F1. In order to raise the quality of racing, because it is very poor apart from five or six drivers, F1 needs to get the constructors back."

Whilst Trulli's comments are bound to be controversial, consider this - over the last year the sport has lost him, Rubens Barrichello, Kamui Kobayashi and his former team-mates Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock; all credible drivers with strong racing credentials. Therefore, one can be forgiven for thinking that in what he says there is more than a kernel of truth.

by George East