Has Ferrari stopped Italy producing world champion drivers?

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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10 comments on Has Ferrari stopped Italy producing world champion drivers?

  1. GCM is *always* right!

    (I say this from the unbiased perspective of one who has ‘Forza Minardi’ tattooed on his heart…)

  2. Mark said on 10th March 2008, 8:50

    Would Italy be the only country that supports a team over drivers?

    Maybe that is why corporate support doesn’t go to the young drivers?

  3. Rohan said on 10th March 2008, 9:06

    Mark, you make it seem as though supporting a team instead of a driver is a bad thing, even though that’s what I’d suggest the majority of those who follow F1 do (as opposed to those who watch F1 casually)

  4. Gary Shavit said on 10th March 2008, 9:43

    That is why the possible move of Valentino Rossi from MotoGP got so much attention. A few years as a student to Schumacher would have put him in a good position to be the next Italian champion.

  5. Mark said on 10th March 2008, 10:27

    Good Heavens no Rohan! There is nothing wrong with the idea of supporting a team rather then a driver. But my point is…
    Britain appears to follow Lewis, Jenson, DC first, and McLaren and Williams second.
    So rather then the corporate dollar following British teams, they go to British drivers. Whereas in Itay, the dollars go to Ferrari.

  6. Ogami said on 10th March 2008, 10:56

    IRCC, ferrari has a rule of non hiring italian drivers because of pressure from tifosi. I don’t know how true this is…just read that on some forums.

  7. Journeyer said on 10th March 2008, 13:18

    Odd, Ogami.  The more publicized reason why they don’t hire Italians is that they’re too… fiery, too emotional.  At least that’s what Enzo Ferrari thought.  And think about it, the last fully Italian driver to win a GP in a Ferrari was Alboreto in 1985 (Alesi was part-Italian and won in 1995).  A variation on that was that Enzo did not want to see an Italian die in the wheel of one of his Ferraris.

    Well, nowadays, they hire based on driver talent.  Some say they had a contract with Liuzzi before he entered F1, but was quietly dropped when he didn’t prove to be quick enough.

  8. Journeyer is right, why should Ferrari use a rubbish Italian instead of a good driver born elsewhere? It’s been proven that hiring a driver because of his nationality is a stupid idea (Sato at Honda, and probably Nakajima at Williams this year). As a Ferrari fan I’d rather see Massa in the second car rather than Liuzzi or Badoer.Yes, Ferrari should have a youth program, but instead of shooting his mouth off, perhaps Giancarlo Minardi should establish his own Italian F1 youth project. He’s not in F1 any more so he’s got the time on his hands, surely.

  9. oliver said on 11th March 2008, 15:51

    Ferrari is not a local brand anymore.

  10. James Steventon said on 20th April 2008, 20:25

    Wow, I didn’t know that America had produced the most F1 drivers! 156 and only two world champions.  
    The top teams, of which Ferrari is one, are naturally going to pick the best drivers available, regardless of the nationality.
    It is nice when a situation arises where say, a British driver can race with a British team, like in Hamilton’s case, however, one must be practical.
    If there was an Italian driver out there that the Scuderia thought was worth trying, then you would have an Italian in a Ferrari. I guess, if Ferrari were feeling really patroatic, they could start a course simular to Red Bull in order to bring along and nurture young talent, choosing only Italian drivers.
    Then again, it often makes good sense just to hire a Kimi Raikkonen every so often, to give your team the best chance for success. 

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