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Lack of Italian drivers in Formula 1

2013 Formula 1 season is just around the corner, and it seems there won?t be any Italian drivers on the grid for the second consecutive season. The lack of Italian drivers is quite surprising as there has always been the constant presence of Italian Teams in the sport. Today, there are Ferrari, and partly Italian Scuderia Toro Rosso. Is it the lack of support from the Italian Teams or Is it really the lack of talent from this co [...]

The 2013 Formula 1 season is just around the corner, and it seems there won’t be any Italian drivers on the grid for the second consecutive season. The lack of Italian drivers is quite surprising, as there has always been a constant presence of Italian teams in the sport. Today, there is Ferrari, and partly Italian, Scuderia Toro Rosso. Is it the lack of support from the Italian teams or is it really the lack of talent from this country? Should teams do a favor for drivers from their countries and give young drivers a chance?

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Ferrari is an Italian team with a long history in Formula 1. Even though the team is Italian, there has been a big lack of Italian drivers in the team. The last time when an Italian drove for Ferrari was back in 2009, when Giancarlo Fisichella replaced Felipe Massa while the Brazilian was recovering from his serious accident. Before Fisichella, Luca Badoer also had the chance to replace Massa in a couple of races. Badoer worked with Ferrari for many years, and was a very loyal third driver for the team. Fisichella also joined the team as a reserve driver after the 2009 season. The last time when this team had an Italian driver who had a race seat for an entire season was back in 1984, when Michele Alboreto joined the team.

Italian drivers have disappeared from the championship slowly. Still, back in 2011, there were two Italian drivers on the grid: Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Since the start of the 2012 season, there have been no Italian drivers on the proper race seats. Italian driver Davide Valsecchi won the GP2-series championship in 2012, and tried to get a racing seat for this season. Unfortunately, he was left without one. However, he got a third driver role with the Lotus F1 Team, and is surely hoping to be able to step into the car as often as possible on practice sessions.

The lack of young, talented Italian drivers is a very big concern. There won’t be any Italians on the 2013 F1 grid. The same seems to be the case in Formula One’s biggest feeder series, GP2. So far, there are no Italian drivers announced in GP2 for this season. Last year, Italian Luca Filippi joined the series for a couple of races, and even scored a victory in what was essentially his first race after the break that he had to undergo. It was really impressive, but it wasn’t enough to please the Formula One teams.

The Ferrari team has their own driver academy, which supports young drivers to get more experience, to understand the art of working with the team, and to learn more about racing at a high level. There are some Italian drivers in the academy, but it’s not guaranteed that a driver who has joined the ‘Ferrari Driver Academy’ will get a racing seat. They are willing to guide these young drivers, and help them to grow up alongside the team, while racing in different feeder series. Good thing is that this Academy gives plenty of support for Italians, even though big talents are still missing.

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Lots of people have been pushing for teams to support local talent. Force India are a prime example of being the victim of such requests, which are constantly being put forward by various people associated with motor sports. Quite recently, when the Force India team was evaluating various options for the second seat, plenty of people were rooting for the top 2 drivers from India. A report from a particular newspaper from India suggested that the Anglo-Indian team was looking at an option of reserving a seat for Narain Karthikeyan. This particular report got escalated quickly, with plenty of people taking to social networking sites to express their opinion. For sure, having local talent will add lots of value in the commercial aspects of the team, but it’s also important to avoid pushing a particular driver for the sake of it. Force India and Ferrari are two examples of teams pushing their local talent in the opposite spectrum. Yes, Force India, to their defence, have their own academy, where they have been training kids below the age of 16, but it’s also important for them to try people who are already into the biggest league. In spite of many criticisms from all angles, Mallya doesn’t seem to be pleased with the achievements of Karun Chandhok or ‘The Fastest Indian in the World’, Narain Karthikeyan. Although there have been reports of a simulation try out for these drivers, way back in 2010, they are still reports as there hasn’t been any official communication from any associated parties. Ferrari, on the other hand, seems to give the potential candidates a fair run before making a comment on them. Yes, there are exceptions with particular drivers, but at least they haven’t made any negative comments about these drivers.

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Italians are used to supporting their own team, Ferrari, but it would make it even more special to have their own driver in the sport who can also make it big. Imagine the Ferrari team with a talented Italian driver – it would be a perfect combination for these very passionate Italian people. Fast cars are an important thing in this country that loves pasta and wine. Italy has a great history in racing and also the development of automobiles, and is really specialized in the production of fast cars, as brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati are all based in Italy.

If we look back into Formula One history, we can see that the sport used to be dominated by Italian drivers and the Italian teams. When the Formula One World Championship started in 1950, Italian drivers and teams were a very strong part of the sport. The first ever championship was won by Giuseppe Farina, with Alfa Romeo. After Farina, it was Alberto Ascari’s turn to be the next Italian champion as he clinched the title in 1952 and 1953 with Ferrari. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati were all big Italian teams with a huge success rate in those years. After Farina and Ascari, there have been no Italian driver champions in the sport. During the first 10 years of the sport, the championship title was won 8 times by an Italian car, which is certainly a  big percentage. The only one from the historical Italian teams who is still in the sport is Ferrari, and the last time when Ferrari won the constructors championship was back in 2008, and the drivers’ championship was back in 2007.

Italy has really a glorious history in Formula 1, and it would be very important to bring back some Italian flavor. It would be very nostalgic, and also refreshing for the sport itself, The sport, these days, is much more international and is also very competitive. Sadly, it seems like we will need to wait for a long time to have the next Italian young star in the sport, or even a new Italian team. But when an Italian talent arrives and starts winning and fighting for championships, it surely will be an emotional moment for Italians and for those who love the Italian motor sport history.

Published with permission from RachF1.

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