Has Ferrari stopped Italy producing world champion drivers?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 2008 pre-season, Bahrain, 450150

Former Minardi team owner Giancarlo Minardi reckons they have:

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.

Italy is one of the top countries for motor racing and has given F1 its most historic and recognisable team in Ferrari along with more drivers than any other country bar Britain and the United States*. But why has it had so few champions?

I started watching F1 in 1989 and since then only three Italians have started races for Ferrari: Gianni Morbdelli (Australia 1991, stand in for Alain Prost), Ivan Capelli (14 races in 1992 before being dropped) and Nicola Larini (two races in 1992 and another two in 1994 as a stand-in for Capelli and then Jean Alesi). When Michael Schumacher was injured in 1999 the team turned not to their long-serving Italian test driver Luca Badoer, but Mika Salo.

Astonishingly, Italy hasn’t had a world champion since Alberto Ascari, champion in 1952 and 1953 (Mario Andretti, champion in 1978, was born in Italy but emigrated to America and took US citizenship). Minardi thinks Ferrari should do more to promote Italian talent:

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.

Is Minardi right?

*The USA has had more F1 drivers (156) than any other country – Britain is second with 154. But many of the American drivers only ever participated in the Indianapolis 500 when it counted towards the world championship from 1950-60, and was not run to F1 rules.

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