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Gianmaria Bruni - the next Minardi protege? 16 Dec 2003

Gianmaria Bruni (ITA) Minardi Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, German Grand Prix, Hockenheim, Germany, 2 August 2003

Gianmaria 'Gimmi' Bruni will follow in the footsteps of fellow Italians Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli when he makes his Formula One race debut with Minardi next March. The team has a reputation for promoting the best young driving talent, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso being just two of the more recent examples. But will Bruni be the next?

The 22-year-old, like most future Formula One drivers, started out in karts. In 1995, aged 14, he finished third in the European Championship. This prompted a move up to single seaters and Italian Formula Renault Campus, a series he would win at his second attempt thanks to four race victories and five pole positions. Then in 1999 he clinched the Formula Renault Eurocup Championship, despite being unfamiliar with all but two of the circuits, and also won the Autosprint Casco d'Argento Award.

The 2000 season saw Bruni make the move to Britain's prestigious Formula Three championship. The Roman acquitted himself well, finishing fifth overall as the top rookie in his debut campaign. He achieved the same placing the following year, scoring a race victory and six more podiums in the process. He capped a successful year with a fourth place at the Zandvoort Marlboro Masters event, racing against the world's best F3 drivers, including winner Takuma Sato.

Bruni's next move towards Formula One racing was the F3000 Euro series. In 2002, his first year, he came 12th. This year he improved on that dramatically, ending the season third overall, combining his racing with testing duties for Minardi, including several Friday morning appearances at Grand Prix meetings.

Those testing performances helped convince Paul Stoddart that his talent is worthy of a Formula One race seat for 2004. While Bruni's rise through the motorsport ranks may not have been as meteoric as, say, Alonso's, the Minardi boss is convinced he may have yet another protege on his hands. "It's clear Gimmi will be following in some illustrious footsteps," he said, "but we are absolutely confident he is a new Formula One star in the making."

See also: Bruni wins Minardi race seat for 2004