Jarno Trulli: the driver debates

Jarno Trulli, Toyota, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

Jarno Trulli is clearly a very quick driver but in at least one respect he is very peculiar: he is often sensation in qualifying, but lacklustre in races.

I struggle to think of any drivers either in F1 history or in other series at the moment who excels on a hot lap but struggles to match that pace over a race distance in quite the same way.

What do you think of Jarno Trulli?

Trulli arrived in F1 courtesy of Minardi but swiftly gained promotion to Prost following Olivier Panis’s leg-breaking crash. He later joined Jordan and performances such as his excellent second on the grid at Monte-Carlo in 2000 drew attention to his pace in qualifying.

In 2002 he joined Renault and he and Jenson Button were generally very closely matched. Button was subsequently dropped for Fernando Alonso and if Trulli was less frequently on Alonso’s pace he nonetheless proved capable of rattling the Spanish driver.

Trulli stuck his Renault on pole at Monaco in 2004 and dominated the race, Alonso crashing while lapping Ralf Schumacher as he hurried to keep pace with him. But Trulli didn’t last the season, falling foul of team boss and manager Flavio Briatore after being pipped for third place on the last lap at Magny-Cours by Rubens Barrichello.

Turfed out of Renault with a few races left he turned up at Toyota where he’s been ever since. Only in 2005 did it look like the partnership might bear fruit, with Trulli racking up a few podium finishes. But they slumped again in 2006 and 2007.

This year Trulli is featuring regularly in the points but once again in Monaco this year we once again caught sight of the ‘Trulli train’, a phenomenon that was quite common in 2005. Is Trulli destined to be remembered as a driver who invariably qualified better than he raced, and ended up holding up lots of other drivers?

Read more about Jarno Trulli: Jarno Trulli biography

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11 comments on Jarno Trulli: the driver debates

  1. Rohan said on 7th June 2008, 10:02

    I think Trulli’s problem was that he has to have the car set-up exactly how he likes it – this is fine for quali when he could make small adjustments between runs, but during the race any small difference could alter the feel of the car.

    This year Toyota have changed how they designed the car so that it “feels good to drive” (I can’t remember the technical term) irrespective of the exact set-up. This has allowed Jarno to perform better during the races so far.

    I actually thought the Jarno was a better driver than Fernando during their time at Renault, but it seems I’ve been proven wrong.

  2. Oliver said on 7th June 2008, 12:16

    I quite agree Rohan, Trulli is one of those very sensitive drivers, he can sense minute changes in a cars setup and when he is not one with the car he is totally lost. He has a good wine business he can always go back to.

  3. Perhaps Jarno’s problem is one of perception. He is SO good over a single lap that his race pace is always going to look poor by comparison. In 2005 he regularly qualified his Toyota up the front of the field where it simply didn’t belong, making it inevitable that he would slip back during the race.

    Maybe his problem is not poor race pace, but that his extraordinary speed in qualifying makes it look that way.

    He reminds me of Jean Alesi. Exciting to watch and clearly not lacking passion or raw speed, but just doesn’t have the final piece of the puzzle that makes up a champion.

  4. Number 38 said on 7th June 2008, 15:13

    Both the above are probably right…..it’s the car that’s really at fault. Given a good car like the 2004 Renault Trulli earned 46 points before Silverstone and if some one could convince me old Flav didn’t throw away a good driver…………..after giving Trulli the pink slip he lost incentive, didn’t score another point for Renault.
    Good move Flav, now he’s got a rookie that SHOULD be replaced and instead he keeps rolling the dice wishing and hoping for the kid’s first point, race after race. You can’t win with a one man team. Life in F1, there is no justice.

  5. Rabi said on 7th June 2008, 15:24

    Piquet is there only because his seat is funding Alonso’s seat. If that wasn’t the case I’m sure Flav would have booted Piquet out by now.

    Either that or Alonso is making that Renault look amazing when it’s possible that it’s most likely a pile of junk.

  6. Brendan said on 7th June 2008, 21:43

    I’d say the biggest reason for Jarno’s improved form this season is that Ralf is gone. Jarno admitted at the beginning of this season that he talks more with Timo over a weekend than he did with Ralf over an entire season. Trying to improve and develop the ’05-’07 Toyotas must have been awfully difficult with the drivers giving completely independent opinions of it.
    Along with that, the Speed guys (probably PW) said that the previous Toyotas were built with Ralf’s driving style in mind–apparently Ralf liked a very pointy car, with lots of front-end grip. Since Ralf was getting the megabucks, his preferences dictated the car design. This left Jarno driving a car that had a permanent set-up bias towards Ralf. Now, with Jarno the clear #1 and a fairly clean-sheet car design for ’08, I’m not surprised they’re doing better.

  7. Gman said on 10th June 2008, 21:48

    In my short time in F1 I’ve thought of Trulli as a dependable driver who can indeed qualify well, but has lacked that missing element to make him a regular race winner. I’m guessing that is a result more of the car then his driving skills, but you guys know he and the other drivers better than I do.

    Outside of race performance, I’ve found him to be friendly and good-natured, different than many of the others on the grid. As I mentioned in another post a few weeks ago, I do enjoy hearing his radio snippits during races, espicialy with two Italians talking in English…they speak it well, but in an amusing fashion!!

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 13th June 2008, 14:40

    i think the trulli train is abit harsh on jarno really, i think that he can get more from the car over a single lap than nearly everyone else on the grid hence hes higher up on the gri than his car should be so he holds people up.

    i think he is under rated, he was better than ralf over their 3 years at toyota together (an awful lot in 07) yet ralf has a career of 6 race wins while jarno has only 1. in his 14th grand prix driving for prost if it wasnt for engine failure trulli would have won the 97 austrain grand prix, he qualified 3rd made a good start got up to 2nd and when hakkien retired at the end of lap 1 he dominated until his engine faulure about halfway throiugh the race.

    i think if trulli had been in better cars he would have more wins i know he was at renault for 3 years but after prost he moved to jordan for 2000, and 2001 which were awful seasons or jordan. yet he still had some amazing performances in qualifying. he matched jenson button in 02 and in the 1st half of 04 reguarly beat alonso.

    hes alot better than people think

  9. George said on 13th June 2008, 16:08

    Yes, I agree with those above that are of the opinion that Jarno is essentially one of the most under-rated drivers on the grid, and a victim of perception. He seriously rattled Alonso’s cage across the first half of 2004 – and I’m pretty it was this that led to his fall from favour within the Renault team. It is a shame that he ended up stuck at Toyota – he is more than good enough to have won a hat full of grand prix and a world championship.

    His feel for the car is right up at the sharp end of the field and his pace is absolutely blistering. I wouldn’t bet against him beating anyone on the grid in the same car over a single lap. And he is pure poetry to watch at the wheel – a real artist, swift, incisive, balanced and fluid.

    Added to that, he’s a genuinely nice guy – one of the few gentlemen left in the sport you might say. Like the late Michele Alboreto perhaps. And like Alboreto in another sense – Trulli is not simply a Formula 1 driver, he is a Racing Driver. And there are not many of those around these days.

    To cap it all off, he makes the most delicious wine. If you haven’t tried a bottle of Trulli, I seriously suggest you give it go!

  10. George said on 13th June 2008, 16:10

    Oh, and whilst I think that the observation that he is outstanding in qualifying and lacklustre in the race isn’t a fair one Keith, I can offer you a driver from the past who very much fell into this category (you said you were struggling to think of one!): I offer you Phillipe Alliot.

  11. Jean said on 17th June 2008, 9:56

    Can’t say it’s lack of fitness or motivation or both , but there is definitely something , maybe only a very small thing , but amiss with Jarno Trulli and his F1 carreer. The driving skill is there , no doubt and evidenced by some of the qualifying laps he has done before , but he just cannot keep up necessary pace throughout the whole race . I know Toyota have not had the best car , but Jarno has also not exploited it to the maximum . Which also led me to previous comments that Toyota , if they want any F1 success , have the resources and are overdue with hiring a serious world championship contender , someone like Alonso has to come to mind.

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