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Minardi: Where are all the Italians?

Former Formula One team owner Giancarlo Minardi has spoken out against what he believes is a lack of opportunities for fellow Italians to make it into the top flight.

The 2008 grand prix season will start with just two Italians - Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli - in regular race seats, both men having been involved in Formula One since the 1997 season. Since then, the occasional other has come and gone, and Minardi laments the fact that little is being done to help those not otherwise involved on development programmes.

"Unfortunately, Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella are almost at the end of their careers," he said, "[A lack of Italian replacements] is a problem that has lasted many years. The young drivers grow in the various development categories, but then fail to make the final jump to F1.

"[Giorgio] Pantano and [Tonio] Liuzzi broke into Formula One, but then failed to stay [as race drivers]. Davide Rigon is another striking example, a driver who has demonstrated good talent by winning the various categories in which he has raced, but whose budget difficulties are limiting his career."

Minardi, of course, was well known for giving drivers a break, despite being one of the least well funded teams in the paddock, but, with a roster that includes the like of Fisichella, Mark Webber and one Fernando Alonso, the veteran is well qualified to comment on the current dearth of Italians.

"The fundamental problem, in my opinion, is that Team Ferrari does not have a youth programme, unlike any other team, such as Honda, Red Bull and Renault," he reflected, "These days, it is common for some of these teams have to make agreements with feeder series, offering a few days of testing at the wheel of their car as a prize for the champion. This policy has allowed us to bring young drivers into F1 and keep a high interest in this sport.

"Unfortunately, Ferrari paralyses the growth of young drivers by attracting the interest of companies to its championship, but the team is changing direction and, therefore, I hope that it will start to give opportunities for young talent to take part in a few days of testing."

Italians expecting to be at the fore in the main F1 feeder series, GP2, include not only comparative veteran Pantano, but also Davide Valsecchi, Honda test driver Luca Filippi and reigning national F3 champion Paolo Nocera, although only Filippi appears to have attracted the sort of support necessary to give him a leg up. Pantano's star has waned to the point where he has become a regular in GP2, while Liuzzi is no longer a part of the Red Bull set-up and will carry out reserve duties for Force India, behind Fisichella, this season.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
07.09.2006 Monza, Italy,  Giancarlo Minardi (ITA, ex. Minardi Team Owner) - Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Thursday
Giancarlo Fisichella talks with Jarno Trulli
Tonio Liuzzi - Force India-Ferrari VJM01   [pic credit: Force India/Sutton]
28.10.2016 - Free Practice 1, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Ferrari
03.09.2016 - (L-R) Fabio Basile (ITA) Judo Olympic Champion, Rio 2016, Giancarlo Minardi (ITA) and Frank Chamizo Marquez (ITA) Wrestling bronze medal, Rio 2016.
03.09.2016 - (L-R) Fabio Basile (ITA) Judo Olympic Champion, Rio 2016, Giancarlo Minardi (ITA) and Frank Chamizo Marquez (ITA) Wrestling bronze medal, Rio 2016.
03.09.2016 - (L-R) Giancarlo Minardi (ITA) and Frank Chamizo Marquez (ITA) Wrestling bronze medal, Rio 2016.
Andrea de Cesaris - Minardi (Brands Hatch)
28.07.2016 - (L-R) Giancarlo Bruno (ITA) RAI TV and Ivan Capelli (ITA) ACI Milano, President
25.05.2016 - Gianfranco Mazzoni (ITA) RAI TV and Giancarlo Bruno (ITA) Gianfranco Mazzoni (ITA) RAI TV TV
Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Ferrari Third Driver at a charity football match.
28.11.2015 - Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Ferrari
27.11.2015 - Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)
04.09.2015 - Free Practice 2, Giancarlo Minardi (ITA) and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Ferrari
03.07.2015 - Free Practice 2, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)
21.05.2015-Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)
07.05.2015- Giancarlo Minardi (ITA)
Christian Fittipaldi in the Minardi M192, 1992

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Syklone - Unregistered

March 06, 2008 12:59 PM

Yes, what a shame Minardi is no longer present in the top flight. During, say, 1994 this characterful Italian team was still in the hunt for points from time to time - ironically with two old, but very italian drivers - Pierluigi Martini and the late Michele Alboreto. After that their fortunes faded, but they were always the ones to give talented youngsters a chance, and many famous names have them to thank for it. I miss them - because they, like Williams, represented what F1 used to be about: independent teams. And even though they were perrenial backmarkers, they had so much more character than Super Aguri, Force India and Toro Rosso. Since then F1 has become bigger, but better?

Gil Bouffard

March 07, 2008 4:23 AM

The Red Bull driver development programme is designed to sell Red Bull! I watched the American version of the programme with much interest as I was working with a young man who was turned down for being too old. Yet he was either the same age or younger than the poor hapless souls who were chosen. If the RB programme was supposed to develop drivers a major portion of the programme should have been directed at promoting them in their own country...Didn't happen here in America, mate. Then again America doesn't have weekly motorsports news magazines in which to sell the stories of the drivers. American drivers like Charlie Kimball go to Europe and race F Ford, F3, Euro F3 and WSbR! Who cares!

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