Italy left without an F1 driver in 2012

2012 F1 season

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Sepang International Circuit, 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella scored the last win for an Italian driver in the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix

As Jarno Trulli has lost his seat to Vitaly Petrov, F1 finds itself in the rare position of having no Italian drivers at the start of a new season.

Only once in F1 history has a season passed without an Italian driver starting a race. That was in 1969, when Ernesto Brambilla was the only Italian driver to appear at a race, and he failed to start it.

The situation contrasts with that of France, another country with great motor racing heritage. France has been without an F1 driver for the last two years but boasts three in 2012.

Italy’s roster of F1 talent has been dwindling for some time. For many years Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella were its only representatives in the sport’s top flight. Vitantonio Liuzzi has also lost his seat this year.

Italian drivers in F1, 1950-2012

This graph shows how many Italian drivers started F1 races in each season since the world championship began:

1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Italian drivers 12 8 8 8 7 9 10 6 5 2 4 9 3 3 3 6 4 3 2 0 2 2 3 3 2 4 5 5 5 5 5 9 8 8 8 9 9 11 11 13 13 13 11 10 7 8 4 4 2 4 2 2 2 2 4 3 3 3 2 4 2 2 0

At the dawn of the world championship, Italian involvement in F1 reached a peak in terms of both drivers and teams – the latter including Alfa Romeo and, of course, Ferrari.

During the first four seasons the championship went to an Italian on three occasions – first Giuseppe Farina, then Alberto Ascari in 1952 and 1953. But there have been no Italian drivers’ champions since then (though Mario Andretti, who was born in Italy, won the championship as an American in 1978).

The number of Italian drivers in F1 boomed again in the late eighties and early nineties. This was partly because the number of places in F1 had swelled, with a record 39 drivers entered at some rounds in 1989. Of these around a third were Italian.

Similarly in the following two seasons 13 Italian drivers started races. Once again, a rise in Italian constructors helped bolster their numbers: in addition to Ferrari the grid at this time featured the likes of Minardi, Dallara, Osella and others.

Of course, this is not to say that places at Italian teams exclusively went to Italian drivers, or vice-versa. But it provided more opportunities for local talent to progress through the junior ranks into F1.

Today the upper limit on entrants is much lower – the sport’s governing body grants space for just 13 two-car teams, and one of those slots is currently vacant. Of the Italian constructors, Ferrari remains, and Minardi has been transformed into Red Bull’s young talent hothouse Toro Rosso. The rest are gone.

Giorgio Pantano, GP2, 2008

Giorgio Pantano is the only GP2 champion not to have been promoted to F1

We shouldn’t assume that any country automatically deserves to have a driver in F1 – regardless of whether it’s Italy or India, Britain or Brazil. There are only 24 places available and it can hardly be argued that the quality is not very high – one-quarter of this year’s drivers are world champions.

And it’s hard to make the case that any of the Italian drivers who’ve lost their seats recently have been hard done by. Both Fisichella and Trulli have long careers behind them. Liuzzi made a comeback after being dropped by Toro Rosso, but was comprehensively beaten by Adrian Sutil in 2010 – a driver who has also failed to find a place on the grid in 2012.

“Nobody did anything about it, probably nobody cares”

The problem appears to be that the ascent of young Italian talent through the junior categories has slowed to a complete stop. It’s notable that every GP2 champion and runner-up since the series was inaugurated in 2005 has progressed to F1 with just two exceptions: both Italians.

They are Giorgio Pantano, GP2 champion in 2008 (and previously an F1 driver with Jordan in 2004), and last year’s runner-up Luca Filippi.

Filippi bemoaned the state of Italian racing talent in F1 after the news of Trulli’s departure broke on Friday. “Sad day for the Italian motorsport,” wrote Filippi on Twitter. “From being the most represented country in F1 to this year that we are just going to be spectators.

“We all knew this day was going to come. Nobody did anything about it, probably nobody cares about it. Sad, sad day.”

Former F1 driver Max Papis was even more vocal in his criticism: “With Trulli out F1 has no Italian driver for first time shame on CSAI [Italian Motor Sport Commision] and the Italian federation to make this happen,” he wrote, adding: “Fire the president.”

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali came to the the CSAI’s defence, saying: “For a few years now, Ferrari, through its Driver Academy, has established a long-term plan to create a new generation of young drivers, which works also in collaboration with the CSAI, and I am pleased to see that just now, we can announce that two talented youngsters, Raffaele [Marciello] and Brandon [Maisano], will be given a great opportunity to progress in the sport.??

“Among the group of drivers available to the Scuderia for racing and promotional activity, there are three Italians born and bred, in the shape of Andrea Bertolini, Giancarlo Fisichella and Davide Rigon, while Jules Bianchi has obvious Italian roots and will be able to make himself known this year in his role as reserve driver for Force India, as well as by racing in the World Series by Renault.”

Mirko Bortolotti, Ferrari F2008, 2010

Mirko Bortolotti tested for Ferrari in 2010

Not all the upcoming Italian racing talent share Filippi’s view. Take last year’s Formula Two champion Mirko Bortolotti, who has tested for Ferrari and Wiliams: “So F1 without Italians this year,” he wrote.

“OK it’s a shame but not a defeat though, because F1 isn’t the top of motorsport any more.” Tellingly, he signed off using a hashtag “JustMoney”.

Sponsorship is hard to come by for many drivers at the moment and the economic situation in Italy is particularly difficult.

Inevitably, attention will turn to the role of Ferrari in developing young driver talent. Only a select few Italian drivers have won races for the Prancing Horse.

The team have increased their driver development activity in recent years as Domenicali describes above. But as one of the leading teams in F1 they can hardly be expected to give one of their seats to unproven talent. Lewis Hamilton’s appointment at McLaren in 2007 is a rare example of this happening with a front-running team.

Nor should Ferrari be expected to focus solely on the talent they find in their backyard. Hence the leading drivers in their development programme are a Mexican and a Frenchman.

Ultimately, Ferrari’s priority is making great Italian racing cars – not great Italian racing drivers.

Do you think there are any Italian drivers missing from the 2012 grid who should be there? Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season

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Images ?? Renault/LAT, Alastair Staley/GP2, Ferrari spa

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113 comments on Italy left without an F1 driver in 2012

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 10:11

    Do you think there are any Italian drivers missing from the 2012 grid who should be there?

    Italian drivers haven’t really been relevant for years. Just look at the drivers they have had since 2000: Trulli, Liuzzi, Fisichella, Badoer, Pantano and Bruni. None of them have inspired the same awe as the likes of Alonso and Hamilton and Vettel. For a country where motorsports form a significant part of the national sporting identity, Italy is not very good at producing quality racing drivers. Have they really produced anyone who exudes natural talent since the days of Tazio Nuvolari?

    • It does seem to only be in single seater racing though where this is a problem, perhaps the allegiance of many Italians to Ferrari over an Italian driver has an effect?

      I mean Italian motorcycling was and still is strong i.e. Rossi, Simoncelli (RIP), Dovizioso, Biaggi, Capirossi all at the top on the world level over the last 10 years. There have also been numerous excellent Italian racing drivers who have done very well in other types of cars i.e. Tarquini, Larini, Zanardi, Emmanuelle Pirro, even someone like Marc Gene did well in Le Mans. These guys all failed in F1 (none of them ever had a half decent car though) so I don’t think lack of talent is the issue.

      Although I guess you argue in touring cars or GT they aren’t competing against the best drivers in the world any longer. Interesting problem.

    • Have they really produced anyone who exudes natural talent since the days of Tazio Nuvolari?

      How about Michele Alboreto, Alberto Ascari, Ivan Capelli, Andrea de Cesaris, Giuseppe Farina, Giancarlo Fisichella, Pierluigi Martini, Riccardo Patrese or Jarno Trulli?

      I’d say all have them have at least had a significant amount of talent.

      • peru-kowalsky said on 19th February 2012, 14:00

        ascari is the only one in your list that desrves star status.
        The rest were good but not great. Being alboreto and patresse the best of the rest, but having to fight against truly greats like prost and mansell, so they never had a chance. Plus ferrari was not a match for mclaren in 1985, so…

      • peru-kowalsky said on 19th February 2012, 14:02

        and forgot farina, wich should be put with ascari i guess, even if he had a big mechanical superiority.

      • Aditya (@) said on 20th February 2012, 6:59

        Don’t underestimate Martini, he nearly got a podium for Minardi.

  2. GeorgeDaviesF1 (@georgedaviesf1) said on 19th February 2012, 10:18

    To be honest it wont have that much effect in Italy, most fans support Ferrari anyway

    • Beyond (@lello4ever) said on 19th February 2012, 10:52

      that’s it. in italy there is ferrari and nothing else. they make you care only about the scuderia. funny to hear domenicali speak like that since they’re doing nothing to help italian drivers to ascend.

    • After a race, the commentators always highlight the finishing positions not only of Ferrari, but also of the other Italian drivers. The other journalists also underlined the performances of their countrymen. I wasn’t watching F1 when an Italian last won a race, but the support for them was equal to that of Ferrari. When an Italian won a race he was cheered by everyone, except maybe if it was the end of a season and he helped his team beat Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
      Everyone was happy when Trulli obtained pole position in Bahrain 2009, and, with Ferrari under-performing, he was all the Italians had to cheer.

  3. To be fair Fillippi and Pantano both had plenty of chances in GP2 and it took each of them at least 5 years to win the title, Likewise the two italians signed up for GP2 this year Valsecchi and Onidi don’t look like potential champions at least in my mind.

    In fact the one Italian talent that has impressed me Kevin Ceccon may be forced to miss GP2 this year to make room for Onidi.

    Also many Italians seem to be ‘late bloomer with 25 Year old Sergio Campana winning the Italian F3 championship and Onidi being 25 also it leaves less room for rookies to catch the eye.

    Having said that there’s a few Italians in GP3 that could be good…

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 10:36

      Having said that there’s a few Italians in GP3 that could be good…

      I think a lot of people wil be very interested to see how Vicky Piria goes, seeing as how she’s the first woman to join the series, which could form a direct route to GP2 and onto Formula 1. I know I’m interested to see how she goes (I’m also watching Visiou, Ellinas and Suranovich).

      • I agree I’m more looking at Visoiu, Fumanelli and Ellinas Suranovich is taking a big step from karting to GP3 I think this will be a learning year for him, On Pyria if she’s half decent she’ll be rocketed up to F1 because of the world wide appeal she brings.

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 19th February 2012, 11:45

        I think a lot of people wil be very interested to see how Vicky Piria goes

        I had a look at her website, and I found her a good-looking young woman, despite the fact that she strongly reminded me of Fernando Alonso. However, her results, as far as I could unearth them, were not so Alonso-like: a number of points-scoring finishes in her second season of Formula Abarth.

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:54

          It’s very difficult to judge a driver’s Formula 1 potential based on results in Formula Abarth. Least of all considering that any driver in Formula Abarth would need to go through GP2 and GP3 (or Formula Renault) before getting to Formula 1. As we saw with Kamui Kobayashi and Romain Grosjean in 2009, results in the lower tiers are not necessarily representative of what a driver can achieve in Formula 1.

        • JCost (@jcost) said on 20th February 2012, 11:48

          On her website you notice that she’s sexy and she knows it! However, does she has the skills to become Formula One’s Michele Mouton or Danika Patrick? Dunno, she will have to prove herself in F3 first.

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 10:21

    “So F1 without Italians this year. OK it’s a shame but not a defeat though, because F1 isn’t the top of motorsport any more.”

    Then what is the pinnacle of motorsport, Mirko?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th February 2012, 10:34

      @prisoner-monkeys Funnily enough I asked him exactly that. Got a reply of sorts (not easily linked to but you can see it in his profile)…

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 10:43

        This is probably the thousandth time that I’ve said it, but the demand for a superlicence and the tiered structure of the feeder series means that drivers need a minimum amount of talent before they can get into Formula 1.

        • Enigma (@enigma) said on 19th February 2012, 11:02

          @prisoner-monkeys Completely agreed. Nowadays paydrivers are talents who deserve to be in F1 or at least close to it. Maldonado is a very good example – he’s a paydriver and that’s what got him the Williams seat over Hulkenberg, but he’s still talented and far from rubbish. Perez as well.

          Of course it’d be better if F1 drivers were there purely on talent, but talent+money is still better than just money.

          • @Maldonado

            Without the money, would he be in F1? No, there are other young drivers with much better pedigrees.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 13:13

            @mike Well he did win the GP2 Championship. In terms of pre-F1 pedigree it doesn’t get any better than that.

          • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 19th February 2012, 13:43

            It took Pastor Maldonado a long time to get that title – even longer than Giorgio Pantano did – which tends to reduce the value of the title a little.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 13:55

            True, but he did still end up winning it, no one can take that away from him.

          • Only after all the guys who beat him the year before left…

          • Enigma (@enigma) said on 20th February 2012, 1:35

            Without money it’s likely Maldonado would not be in F1. And even though it took him a long time to win the GP2 title, and that happened only after the best drivers left, he’s still a very good driver not far behind the best and he’s shown at Williams he’s talented.

            I’d much rather have people like him, that are still very good, than someone like Milka Duno in Indycar, who is there only because of the money and wouldn’t be anywhere near it at all without it.

        • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 19th February 2012, 13:47

          Prisoner Monkeys, it may take a minimum amount of talent to get to F1, but that minimum is largely determined by what money can buy. Also, beyond that minimum, all talent tends to get dismissed when acquiring race seats becomes a bidding war. That’s the problem with going to a pay-driver system.

      • Becken Lima (@becken-lima) said on 19th February 2012, 10:43

        Could both of you consider that he has been only sarcastic because of pay drivers situation and a car of other planet on the grid?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th February 2012, 10:45

      Exactly what I was wondering as well, after reading that tweet a couple of days back.

      Might he mean the GT Championship? or one of the touringcar championships maybe?

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:19

        The GT championship is a mess. There’s just two months until the season begins, and they’ve only got twelve cars on the grid – and only two of them (the Hexis MP4-12Cs) have any drivers confirmed. As for touring cars, they’ve been plagued by the merry-go-round of manufacturer entries and withdrawals, and a lot of the national series – like V8 Supercars, DTM and SuperGT – go off in their own direction in comparison to the BTCC and WTCC.

    • That’s just ridiculous. It’s clear the best drivers in the world (Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Schumacher) are in F1, but it doesn’t mean the 24 F1 drivers are the best 24 drivers in the world. It just means that if Trulli is no longer amongst the F1 drivers he may still well be amongst the best 24 drivers in the world, and that he should have a seat if all the F1 teams aimed to have talented drivers over rich drivers.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:24

        If you want to blame someone or the need for pay drivers, blame the teams. In 1992, you could establish a Formula 1 team for as little as $500,000. In 2012, you need at least $50,000,000. In the past twenty years, Formula 1 has become one hundred times more expensive – because the teams know that the more they spend, the faster they can (and will) go. The downside to this is that they need drivers with sponsors in order to make up their budgets. Which is really why Formula 1 needs a budget cap; somewhere in the region of $100 million-$120 million per season sounds reasonable enough. The problem is that as soon as you implement it, the teams will start looking for (and finding) ways around it so that they can spend more.

        • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 19th February 2012, 11:33

          Schumacher was a pay driver at one point, just throwin’ that out there.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 12:09

            Exactly. You have to start somewhere!

          • I’m not sure it’s the same.

            If a driver brings money, and then performs, then the money has helped a good driver get into F1.

            @prisoner-monkeys is right though, $50m is ridiculous, and honestly, that wouldn’t be nearly enough, $50m is what you need to run a team, not set it up.

            F1 wouldn’t be hurt at all if they had $20m budget caps. In fact, having a budget cap would allow the regulations to be loosened somewhat!

          • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 19th February 2012, 13:05

            That said, the proposal for a budget cap was what started the whole FIA-FOTA war in 2009. And boy was that ugly.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 13:15

            Hang on @mike (sorry to reply directly to you twice by the way!), are you saying that if a driver brings a budget to a team and is good he isn’t a pay driver, but if he brings a budget and doesn’t perform, he is a pay driver. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

          • cjpdk (@cjpdk) said on 19th February 2012, 13:30

            Loads of drivers buy seats in lower fomulae to show their talent. Something’s suspect if someone buys a seat in a top-class series

          • @GeeMac Actually that’s exactly what I’m saying.

            If a very good driver used money to buy his seat, then he is a very good driver who should be in F1, who brought money.

            If a not so good driver like say, Delatraz, uses money to get into the sport, over more talented youngsters, then that is not so good. Because they shouldn’t be in F1, money or not.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 14:43

            @mike I see where you are going, but I can’t agree with that line of thinking. In modern F1 a driver has to have (a) talent and (b) a budget/ a team which has backed him through the lower formulae. Saying that someone who has a budget and who actually performs isn’t a pay driver is splitting hairs. Either the driver pays, or he doesn’t.

            I also don’t think that the modern “pay driver” concept has the same meaning as it did in the early 90’s when guys like Deletraz were buying seats at tail end teams. The world has changed and corporates don’t have the surplus cash lying around that F1 teams need them to throw at them, so drivers have to make up that gap in the team’s budget. If I was Tony Fernandes I would personally would rather have a guy like Petrov in my team because he has a budget , raw pace (even if he is a little accident prone) and is keen to prove his worth in the sport over someone like Trulli who, with all due respect, was at least 3 years past his sell by date and lead Team Lotus off on a tangent last season with his power steering woes.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 21:07

            the proposal for a budget cap was what started the whole FIA-FOTA war in 2009

            It wasn’t so much the idea of a budget cap that caused problems, but the way Mosley wanted to implement it. His proposal made the budget cap optional, but offered a second set of regulations for teams who picked it up. He also wanted the teams to open their books to an external audit, and the information gathered would be sent to the FIA to make sure the teams were obeying the budget cap. The teams didn’t like that idea either, probably because they knew the FIA would not approve of how much they were spending and where they were spending it.

        • I blame the teams. That’s why I wrote:

          he should have a seat if all the F1 teams aimed to have talented drivers over rich drivers.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 19th February 2012, 12:29

      Maybe karting?

    • peru-kowalsky said on 19th February 2012, 14:11

      i agree in a way that f1 is not the pinacle of the sport. But there is not a simple answer.
      Montoya was winning races in f1, but he can’t cut it in nascar.
      Kimi had to come back from wrc, because he was not at the best’s level.
      The thing with f1, is that it has become a worldwide sport, and thats hard to beat.
      I guess the only posible answer is that there is not a clear winner here, unless you are mainstream, and then the obvious answer is f1.

      • Outsider said on 20th February 2012, 1:41

        @ peru-kowalsky

        You are right, its not a simple answer. My personal opinion is that WRC Drivers or Rally Drivers in General are the best in the world, because every mistake you make is punished and every stage has to be inch perfect. But having said this, they arent racing, albeit against the clock. The dynamics shift significantly when you need to race a bunch of other drivers down to turn 1.

        F1 is at the pinnacle of motorsport from a technological standpoint for now, but I am certain that the WEC will surpass it in years to come. The general interest from Manufacturers would suggest the WEC will be the pinnacle for motor racing technology in the near future?

        • peru-kowalsky said on 20th February 2012, 17:04

          If you look at the history of motorsports under the fia, you will see that they won’t allow wec to get bigger so it can shadow f1 in any way. They all feed from ecclestone- f1,
          On the drivers side, i think it s pretty clear buy now that loeb is the best of them all.
          And keith and prisoner monkeys, on the question if f1 is not the pinacle of motorsport , then what is? It could be motogp, for the danger, speeds and worldwide audience. And i can understan some people would argue that. If we don’t consider the audience, then road racing in ireland has to be the top. Isle of man etc.

        • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 21st February 2012, 17:51

          I agree that WRC and other Rallyers are the best in the business,

          1. You dont get endless hours to test the track, and have to respond to youre Co-Drivers notes. BTW, if that guy loses is place in the book, your both in trouble.
          2. The track is never the same even in similar weather year-on-year
          3. One has to race more than just one event across several DAYS
          4. Dirt, Gravel, Snow, Ice, Rain, Ashphalt, Stream Crossings, Jumps, Dizzing Cliffs, all just a day’s work in WRC
          5. Rediculous car control
          6. In other forms of racing, they stop if there is big rock in the track, WRC guys dont
          7. WRC drivers have to fix their own cars in the field, changing tires and making other fixes
          8. The tracks are normally on public roads, with no sanitized run-off areas, nor safety crews right at hand, and sometimes in 3rd world countries where public works are dodgy at best.
          9. The fans can get into the action, lining the track, jumping out of the way, and on occasion, helping drivers get cars rolled back over, or out of the snow.

          Except for the lack of wheel to wheel racing and penultimate speed, The WRC guys really dont have any challengers IMHO.

  5. Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 19th February 2012, 10:23

    Valentino Rossi begs to differ. Ok, he isn’t an F1 driver but I think it’s just a matter of time – an Italıan F1 driver as dominant as Alonso, Hamilton or Vettel.

    • motorcycles is very different word to F1, tho saying that there isnt to many Rossi/biaggi types coming through the bike ranks at the mo. Its the spanish that are providing most of the talent.

      • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 19th February 2012, 13:08

        Indeed. With Simoncelli gone, Italy’s future in MotoGP isn’t looking too good either in a post-Rossi era. They still have Iannone, Corsi, and Pirro, but I doubt they’re on the same level as Marquez or Bradl, never mind Stoner or Lorenzo.

    • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 21st February 2012, 17:39

      I thought Rossi’s hopes had been dashed when KR took the wheel, I seem to recall an article on, or linked from F1Fanatic, but I cant find it now.

      Assuming he could transition seamlessly into F1, I would think Rossi would be a dynamic and powerful racer. On the MotoGP track I consider his performances to be border on magical; desire to win even from the back, extreme vehicle control, much courage to make and stick questionable moves…

      Stoner, Divitsioso(sp) can be counted among the great ones, but lacking that flair that keeps be engrossed. Marco Simoncelli showed much of this characture, and that makes his loss all the more painful.

  6. BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th February 2012, 10:31

    I do think that Filippi and Pantano might have deserved a shot at F1 (or another shot for Pantano).

    But I think its more of a tragedy for Italy and a disgrace for Ferrari and the Italian motorsport world than it is a problem for F1.

    Ferrari woke up the fact that they will have problems signing a driver only when they had Massa hurt and suddenly found they would have to do with a rusty Badoer. Although to me their driver program feels more like a bit of publicity than a scheme even half as serious as Red Bulls’ and McLaren’s support of young drivers in the past 5 years.
    I guess its time for Italy to stop being complacent, and start working on offering oppertunities and get going (that counts for the economy as well!).

    • Klaas (@klaas) said on 19th February 2012, 11:05

      Ferrari don’t need any drivers program. Why would they? Let other teams spend money growing young talent and after they show themselves in F1, Ferrari are simply ‘stealing’ them. Ferrari is a dream team for every driver. Hamilton and Vettel can deny it in front of the media as much as they want but I’m sure once they are offered a contract they’ll fly to Maranello like a bullet.
      I don’t understand why it’s a disgrace for Ferrari not to have an Italian driver. If there was an Italian equivalent for Alonso or Hamilton I think Ferrari would gladly take him. I can’t see McLaren signing a crap driver just because he’s British.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:44


        Let other teams spend money growing young talent and after they show themselves in F1, Ferrari are simply ‘stealing’ them.

        Right. Because Red Bull never would have thought Ferrari might try that.

        These teams are spending millions of dollars developing their young drivers. There is no way that they are going to sit idly by and watch as Ferrari steal promising young drivers away at the last moment, so they write their contracts up in such a way that they are guaranteed to have the first claim to any driver in their program. Which is why Ferrari needs a driver development program. They can’t rest on their laurels and assume “we’re Ferrari, so any driver we ask to race for us will move heaven and earth to do so”, least of all when they have gone three years without winning a championship. All that will do is put them in a position where they have to watch every other team get the first pick of drivers.

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 19th February 2012, 12:02

          They can’t rest on their laurels and assume “we’re Ferrari, so any driver we ask to race for us will move heaven and earth to do so”

          It worked with Raikkonen and Alonso who were the best rated drivers when they were signed for Ferrari. History showed that when Ferrari needed a top driver they got one. Other teams can get their first pick on drivers, they will eventually end up at Maranello. They are working with the best and proven drivers (rookies are not an option), most of them being champions with other teams so I don’t think they’ll have much trouble getting Lewis or Vettel when then Alonso ‘expires’. The fact that Ferrari didn’t get any Championships for the last three years isn’t such a tragedy. McLaren’s situations is far worse at this chapter – 1 WDC in 11 years and they are doing fine, still a top team.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 12:24

            It worked with Raikkonen and Alonso who were the best rated drivers when they were signed for Ferrari.

            Raikkonen and Alonso got into the sport without any support programs like the Red Bull Young Driver Program.

            Other teams can get their first pick on drivers, they will eventually end up at Maranello.

            Do you think it is more likely that Red Bull will let Sebastian Vettel go at the height of his powers, or bend over backwards to keep him?

            The time for Ferrari to assume that they will simply get any driver they want is over. As Bas points out, they were caught with their pants down when they needed a driver in 2009. With no young driver as an immediately-obvious replacement, they were forced to run an aging Luca Badoer while they negotiated to get Fisichella out of his contract. They can’t afford a repeat of that.

          • Klaas (@klaas) said on 19th February 2012, 13:30

            they were caught with their pants down when they needed a driver in 2009

            You realize that midseason there were no good drivers available. And they just needed someone who could drive the other car for a few races because they already knew Alonso would drive for them in 2010 and had to wait and see how Massa’s situation develops.
            Again, Ferrari wouldn’t risk taking some youngster from RBYDP, they are taking proven drivers. Take HAM for example, his contract expires at the end of 2012, if Ferrari need him and he wants to join them, he’s free to do it, there’s nothing McLaren can do about it. Same goes for Vettel. They are established names in F1, they don’t depend on their ‘mother-teams’ anymore. The main thing that keeps Vettel to RB is their winning car (even they admitted it) – one slump in form and Seb is off.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 21:16

            The main thing that keeps Vettel to RB is their winning car (even they admitted it) – one slump in form and Seb is off.

            And he’s going to go to Ferrari, who are currently experiencing an extended slump? Yeah, right.

            Ferrari can’t afford to assume that they will simply get whoever they want. Drivers like Vettel will have iron-clad contracts, and Ferrari cannot simply wave a magic wand and get them out. Now, maybe they can do that with enough work, but don’t you think it makes sense for them to have a few young drivers of their own, just in case they can’t have the pick of the litter?

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 20th February 2012, 11:56

          @prisoner-monkeys Extended slump for Ferrari? They were the closest team to fight the Bulls in 2010(in 2011 RB had no rivals). Things change fast in F1 and other teams rise and fall but Ferrari is most often in the game.
          When the iron-clad contracts expire the driver is free to go anywhere he is wanted.
          Ferrari can of course train their young drivers, they have all the resources to do it – but what’s the point? They know the value of the name “Ferrari”. If only through this name they can attract big guns from other teams, why spend money on youngsters that may not be good enough? It’s not Ferrari who are courting drivers, it’s the other way around.

    • You should know that in Italy, while some people are interested in F1 because of Ferrari (but not that much) there is little-to-no interest in the minor series. Not only am I the only GP2 fan in my school class, I’m the only F1 fan! Some of them watch races once in a while just because they know that I’ll be talking about it until the following one and they’re curious. But they watch it mainly for the crashes, and that’s the wrong way to watch it.
      Rai broadcast GP2 (although, unlike F1, it’s not on their main channel: which is normal, but there’s even less audience) but I’ve never seen it promoted. One like me who loves to follow young drivers and get to know them before they reach F1 found GP2 while researching online, and I decided to watch it. Race after race I enjoyed it more and more, and created a website about it.
      None of my team mates knew about GP2’s existence before I told them about my site. None of them watch it. And it’s the biggest category underneath F1, the largest feeder series. There are people who are interested in GP2 and young drivers in Italy, but little compared to the number of people in the country. Like this article on the GP2 website shows, people mistake GP2 drivers for F1 drivers, because they’ve never seen them before.
      And it’s a pity: the racing is awesome and at times not very mature, but that adds to the interest.
      There is an Italian driver battling for the title: I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere apart from motorsport-dedicated websites, but those who read the GP2 articles are those who already watch it, and few decide to watch it after reading.
      Nearly everyone in Italy has a football team to cheer for, nearly none know an F1 team other than Ferrari, McLaren or Red Bull. And F1 is interesting. I personally wouldn’t know what to do to get people to watch F1, it’s perfect as it is. Shame on them.
      And if people don’t watch F1, imagine the lower categories… most drivers’ existence is acknowledged after they reach F1 (by the audience, not the paddock members); most drivers usually carry backing from their own family activities (Valsecchi, Chilton or van der Garde) as few people are interested in paying money to have their logos on cars no one watches.
      However some countries, like Mexico with Perez and Gutierrez, have backing for their drivers from the lowest categories. If Italian drivers had that, it would all be much better. Italian drivers in GP2 and GP3 have sponsorship from Italian companies I don’t even know. The big ones aren’t interested.
      It would benefit both the drivers and the viewers if people watched the lower series and sponsored the drivers.

  7. Becken Lima (@becken-lima) said on 19th February 2012, 10:40

    It´s a mistery why Italy don´t have more sucessfull drivers in F1. Maybe they are just doing Karts, but Kubica, who moved to Italy to have more chances in motorsports, is a prove that the italian race scene can produce stunning drivers.

    Anyway, they will always have a God like Valentino Rossi…

    • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 19th February 2012, 13:36

      Quite a few Italian drivers have ended up in sportscars, but I suspect a disproportionate amount of the country’s talent is lost through lack of sponsorship.

    • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 19th February 2012, 14:07

      What would you do, if you had to choose between the Polish or Italian motorsport scène?

      • Arrrang (@arrrang) said on 20th February 2012, 10:58

        I’m Polish and what kind of scene are you talking about? ;)
        Poland had Kubica (who started serious racing in Italy) and few sponsors who noticed that Polish driver in F1 will bring lots of “fans” and general interest in motorsport. So we have commercial motorsport, media hype, few drivers with sponsors (small sponsors in a global way of thinking) and huge amount of kids with and F1 dream.
        So you are right about what to choose but its a “choose from one” type of deal.

  8. Italians will just have to support the only driver with an actual Italian name, Ricciardo lol (although he doesn’t like it pronounced the way its supposed to be).

  9. Metal Mr. L (@metalluigi) said on 19th February 2012, 10:56

    Ricciardo and Di Resta are part-Italian aren’t they though?

  10. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 11:02

    Mirko Bortolotti’s tweet is very strange, seems to imply that he thinks that he would get a place in F1 if the current economic climate didn’t force driver’s to bring a budget to teams. Even though he is an F2 champion, I don’t think that carries the same weight (or opens the same doors) as being a GP2 or GP3 champion, so I’m not sure his view is correct.

    • Klaas (@klaas) said on 19th February 2012, 11:12

      I think all these drivers who complain that they can’t find a seat because they have no budget should look at Kobayashi . When given a chance he proved that he deserves to race in F1 and nobody asked for a penny.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:48

        When given a chance he proved that he deserves to race in F1 and nobody asked for a penny.

        Only because Peter Sauber recognised that Kobayashi quickly developed a fan base, and hoped to utilise it to attract sponsors. Which mostly failed – I think the only sponsor Sauber got was a Japanese shampoo company. Adrian Campos tried something similar with Bruno Senna, hoping that the Senna name and his results from the test with Brawn would be enough to turn sponsors’ heads. That failed, too.

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 19th February 2012, 12:07

          Kobayashi quickly developed a fan base

          Oh, and how did he do that? By impressing with his drives maybe?
          I forgot to mention Hulk too, not too much money from him either.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 12:12

            Hulkenberg does have personal sponsors though doesn’t he, he is always wearing a cap with a different logo on it from the other drivers (Katjes last year and Dekra this year).

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 12:20

            Oh, and how did he do that? By impressing with his drives maybe?

            He impressed the fans – not necessarily the teams. Peter Sauber signed him up to take advantage of his popularity. He wanted to use Kobayashi as a blank canvas to attract sponsors.

            You’re acting as if a driver simply has to impress a crowd in a race or two, and they’ll get a Formula 1 drive. But it doesn’t work that way – how many drivers have done this in recent years? Only the one. Of the dozens of drivers who have entered Formula 1 in the last decades, only one driver has entered the sport without any pre-existing sponsors.

        • realracer (@realracer) said on 19th February 2012, 14:23

          Well @PrisonerMonkeys He has put in some good drives last year i.e Monaco,Canada and in 2010 such as Valencia,Silverstone and Suzuka.
          So it shows he has talent to perform well, your just being a cold scenic as always.

      • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 19th February 2012, 12:14

        Kobayashi’s break was a little different because he was a Toyota prodigy, but like PM says, when Toyota pulled out of F1 Peter Sauber saw potential (driving abilities and otherwise) and snapped him up.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th February 2012, 17:59

      @geemac I notice on Mirko Bortolotti’s website his car carries a prominent advert for Bortolotti Costruzione. Seems he does all right for sponsorship himself.

  11. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 19th February 2012, 11:23

    With the lack of quality for many years now, it could be argued that Italy left F1 long ago. Having only a driver of Trulli’s falling calibre to represent your country, to me is worse than having no-one at all. They might have had a lot of drivers in the past, but what is quantity compared to quality? I can understand the national sentiment, that the lack of any drivers is a new low, but it wasn’t all roses before.

    Nationality really isn’t so important. There’s one British MotoGP rider yet the series is followed quite avidly (if by a small amount) in Britain. Across the sea, Greece has a big F1 following yet there’s never been a driver from there or even a race.

    As long as Ferrari do well or even simply around, Italy will always be in F1. The lack of any Italian drivers, let alone any champions, owes a lot to this. If you have a successful team carrying the flag, who cares about the drivers?

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th February 2012, 11:31

      Greece has a big F1 following yet there’s never been a driver from there or even a race.

      Would they settle for a Greek Cypriot? Tio Ellinas is from Lanarca, and he’s racing in GP3 this year. If he pans out, he could wind up in Formula 1 some day.

  12. Italy is doing something about the long-standing issue of Italian drivers not progressing as far as perhaps they should. The trouble is that they started at least 5 years too late. This is why the GP3 Italians look good but the ones further ahead (who either pre-date the efforts to improve the status of Italian drivers or were part of the first, unrefined attempt) have tended to falter.

    I think Trulli should be on the grid this year, not necessarily because he was as good as, say, Petrov at this point, but because of how late the decision was left. Such a big delay cannot benefit Caterham, but that’s probably off-topic. Liuzzi pretty much washed out of F1 in 2011. Fisichella is more likely to become a world champion this year than Alonso or Massa are (albeit in a different series). No other Italians, so far as I can tell, are ready for F1 yet. So given that Caterham decided it needed to make a late decision, the lack of Italians on the grid this year makes complete sense.

    F1 has changed a fair bit in the last 15 years and so has the world. I have every confidence that Italy will adapt and return… …and complete certainty that it will take a while to happen.

  13. What I find interesting is that while Italy (population 60 million) has no F1 drivers this year, Australia (population 25 million) has two. It’s always been claimed that F1 was too difficult in this day and age for an Australian to make it due to sponsorship dollars. Of course luck plays a huge part, but something is failing somewhere in the Italian motorsport scene surely?

  14. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 19th February 2012, 13:11

    I think Italy’s priorities are very clear. They sure were in 1983 at Imola. Riccardo Patrese was leading in an Arrows and was set to take his first home win. But when Patrese made a mistake and crashed out, the crowd roared in cheer, because it allowed the Frenchman Patrick Tambay to win.

    What was Tambay driving? A Ferrari, of course.

  15. realracer (@realracer) said on 19th February 2012, 13:42

    There is a myth going around that Italian drivers struggle with high-downforce cars, I think its due to the fact that a lot Italian circuits are very high speed. If you look at Liuzzi, he did amazing in the Speedcar championship which featured a few ex-F1 champions and race winners and he managed to beat a lot of them in equal machinery,even in the V8 Super-cars gold coast 600 last year Liuzzi managed to beat a lot of established race drivers, he was about to get a third place, but was however given a controversial penalty. So I think Italy does produce good drivers, but however they are not so good in high down-force machinery etc Tarquini,Giovanardi and Zanardi, all very succesful in other series of racing.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th February 2012, 18:05


      There is a myth going around that Italian drivers struggle with high-downforce cars

      That’s not something I’d ever heard of before reading this comment. Has anyone else come across this?

      I find it a bit odd that you call it a “myth” at first, then later in your comment seem to agree with it. I think it’s complete nonsense.

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