"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.
“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.”