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