Is this truly ciao? F1 prepares to bid Jarno Trulli farewell 17 Feb 2012
The winds of change have been blowing through Formula One racing recently. And the latest member of the old guard to be replaced by a younger model is Jarno Trulli, who looks set to wrap up his F1 career after being ousted by Caterham in favour of Vitaly Petrov. The decision by the Norfolk-based team means that for the first time since 1970 an Italian wont figure on the F1 grid - and for the first time since 1997 Trullis name wont grace the timesheets
Born in Pescara in 1974 to motorsport-loving parents, Trulli was named after Finnish motorcycle champion Jarno Saarinen, who had been killed at Monza the previous year. He began karting before he was ten and by 1995 had won just about every title going.
Despite this, he struggled to find the funding to move into single-seaters and only when he was offered a free drive in the 1995 German Formula Three series did he make the switch. Two wins from his six races that year hinted at what was to come in 96 when he dominated the series to become champion with a further six victories. By then he was already under the patronage of the Benetton Formula One team boss Flavio Briatore.
Plans to head to Japan and F3000 in 1997 were quickly abandoned when we was offered the chance of a Grand Prix debut with Minardi in Australia. He showed well in his early outings for the team before being invited to join Prost mid-season to stand in for the injured Olivier Panis. He finished fourth at the Nurburgring and against the odds led in Austria in sensational style before retiring. Trulli had to stand down when Panis returned, but landed a full-time seat for the next two seasons alongside the Frenchman.
He struggled through some frustrating times with Prost, although on a day of high attrition he took second place in the wet 1999 European Grand Prix. He moved to Jordan for 2000 and immediately made an impression by qualifying on the front row at Monaco and Spa. In fact he started in the top 10 on 13 occasions, but had little luck in races and never bettered fourth place. If anything he was even more impressive in qualifying the following year, starting from the front four rows on 15 occasions. Two fourth places proved to be his best results.
For 2002 there was a change of scenery as Trulli returned to his roots by joining Renault, formerly Benetton. Outscored by team mate Jenson Button, he was unable to add to his podium tally, with fourth place his best result. However, things finally came together with a much more competitive package in 2003, when he also had a new team mate in Fernando Alonso. Though he was unable to match the future champion, he did score his first podium in four years with a third place in Hockenheim, and twice started from the front row.
The 2004 season was a remarkable one for Trulli. He began it in style, regularly gathering points, and had the greatest day of his career when he won from pole at Monaco. Later he took another pole at Spa, but a series of frustrating races led to him parting company with the Renault team after Monza with three rounds of the season still to run. Shortly afterwards a contract with Toyota was confirmed and he was able to step into the car for the last two races of 2004. He made an impressive start, qualifying sixth in Japan, though he was unable to score either there or in the Brazilian finale.
Early in 2005, Trullis star looked to be on the rise once more. He began the season in spectacular fashion, with second places in Malaysia and Bahrain, and third in Spain. He also earned Toyotas first pole position at Indianapolis. In the second half of the season, however, results proved harder to find. Nevertheless, in total he finished in the points on nine occasions, earning him seventh place in the drivers championship, two points behind team mate Ralf Schumacher. He also shone in qualifying throughout the year, and on average grid position was ranked second only to world champion Alonso.
With Toyota proving less competitive in the first half of 2006, Trulli struggled for points and didnt score until round nine in Canada, where he was sixth. Fourth place a week later in Indianapolis was encouraging, but there were to be only three more scores, leaving him 12th in the championship. The results did not reflect Trullis familiar qualifying pace, and it was a pattern that largely continued through 2007, when he was 13th overall.
The 2008 season saw Toyota on the ascendancy once more, with Trulli scoring in 10 of 18 races. His third place in France put the team back on the podium for the first time since '06 and he returned to the top ten in the drivers championship (ninth, 31 points), boding well for '09. Sure enough, the upward curve continued with three podiums and eighth in the drivers' table.
However, there was nothing he could do about Toyota's decision to withdraw from Formula One, prompting him to rejoin the team's former technical director Mike Gascoyne at the all-new Team Lotus squad for 2010. He knew it would be a difficult task and it matched his expectations. Although he led the way in qualifying, keeping team mate Heikki Kovalainen honest, he was less convincing in races and his best finish was 13th place (behind Kovalainen) in Japan.
And as the team started to find their feet in 2011, the Italian continued to flounder. Unhappy with the Lotuss power steering, he trailed Kovalainen in both pace and positivity. In Monaco he enjoyed a boost when he finished ahead of the Finn in 13th, but it was a brief respite and in July he had to stand aside to let reserve Karun Chandhok race at the German round. He was back in the drivers seat at the next Grand Prix in Hungary and a new steering system helped him turn his performances around over the rest of the season to the extent that he finished ahead of Kovalainen in the final drivers standings in 21st.
Having fended off rumours over the winter regarding his supposedly secure 2012 race seat with the team (now Caterham), Trulli was boosted by his first test in the new CT01 at Jerez last week and was eager for more running. The team, however, had other ideas and just a week later it was announced that the 37 year-old had lost his seat to ex-Renault driver Petrov. And after bowing out graciously with a thank you to his former team, Trulli now faces saying goodbye to Formula One after a career spanning 15 years.
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