I have an Italian friend who runs an Italian restaurant in London. And I fell into conversation with him about Formula 1 this week while I was eating there. He and I were talking about the current state of F1 and all of the things that made formula one the way that it is right now. I asked him if he was still watching all of the grand prix this year, and he said “almost”. But then he said that he felt more and more betrayed by Ferrari.
Italy and Brazil (and now Germany and Brazil) are really countries where nationality play a big part in the formula one experience. Formula 1 is very important in Italy, which is probably understating it a little bit. My friend was saying though that he felt that they had all been mis-sold the Ferrari dream by Montezemolo. He might love Ferrari, but why couldn’t they put an Italian driver in the team. To his mind they had sold themselves short with Irvine and then Barrichello (I myself still have a soft spot for Rubens but he was arguing that if you wanted to find out what position Rubens was in the race you just had to ask how many of his competitors had fallen out of the race – a tad unfair but that’s what he said). And now, he continued, with Massa they really are taking the piss. If they don’t care how good the second driver is, which – he said – was obvious by the choice of Massa then why couldn’t they bring in some crap Italian driver. And if they were going to pick an Italian driver then why not pick one of the best.
To his mind the best was Trulli. Trulli was ultra fast over a single lap and a born winner. So why wouldn’t they include him, or at the very least Fisi. Surely it would be better to give him a chance?
The problem is – I think – that Ferrari can’t actually employ an Italian driver ever again now. They can’t do it without seeming like “they only gave it to him because he’s Italian”. That’s why they want Rossi because he’s Italian but nobody can argue that he hasn’t won anything he’s a massive world champion in a similar sport.
So in the end it was the same old story. Italian guy upset that Italian racer wasn’t allowed to race for Italian team. But the most interesting thing for me was his driver selection. I had to push him quite hard to reveal it to me. But his choice of Trulli interested me. Trulli is rumoured to be retiring this season, but he had a logic to his choice that I thought was very interesting.
He said that he personally loved Trulli because in the complete race for speed of qualifying he’d always been able to prove himself. And that he’d been able to doubly prove himself by being able to stand up to Briatore when Flav had criticised him Jarno had just basically said “I don’t need this any more I’ll just go off and do my own thing”. And that slight amount of extra brain toughness put Trulli ahead of Fisi. But he said that’s not the reason that Ferrari should hire him, that’s the reason that he would hire him, not the reason that they would. They should hire him because of the qualifying. Because somebody that good in qualifying, and that good at keeping everyone behind him in the race (except his team mate) would be the ideal second driver.
And if he just happened to be Italian – well…