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A tribute to Jarno Trulli

The Bite Point: A tribute to Jarno Trulli

This week the fourth longest Grand Prix career in history drew to a close. Caterham’s decision to sign Vitaly Petrov ended Jarno Trulli’s spell in Formula One after 15 seasons and 252 race starts. Jarno will continue to maintain a heavy presence in motorsport, such is his passion for racing, but the Italian’s time in F1 is over.
Jarno Trulli was not the most consistent driver and his wheel-to-wheel racecraft was sometimes lacking. He was also technically sensitive and was unable to drive around problems or changes in a car’s behaviour. You could additionally suggest his career lasted a few years longer than maybe it should have.
Having said that, Jarno Trulli is phenomenally talented. His natural ability to extricate speed from a car over one lap is peerless. When he is performing at his best, Trulli’s raw pace over any length of time is simply untouchable. He deservedly earned a long career in the sport dragging midfield cars towards the front of the grid and the record books don’t accurately sum up his contribution to Formula One. His is a rare talent.
Jarno Trulli was my favourite Grand Prix driver.
Straight from karts to F1
One of the most amazing aspects of Trulli’s career is how quickly he reached Formula One.
At the end of 1995 the 21 year old travelled to Australia to participate in Oceania Karting Titles. Just over twelve months later he was back in Australia as a Minardi Formula One driver. His short Formula Three career culminated with victory in the 1996 German Championship which launched him into the sport’s top echelon.
Amazing debut year
Trulli performed well with Minardi in 1997, regularly outqualifying the experienced Ukyo Katayama in the sister car, but his big chance to make an early impression arrived when Olivier Panis broke his legs in the Canadian Grand Prix. Trulli was drafted as Panis’ replacement at the Prost team and used the opportunity to produce one of the most surprising F1 performances of the nineties.
Trulli qualified his Prost in a remarkable third position at the Austrian Grand Prix, beaten only by Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen. He had the benefit of Bridgestone tyres which perfectly suited the circuit but he was still the fastest driver on the Japanese rubber and was a massive 13 positions ahead of his teammate on the grid.
Many expected the unexperienced Trulli to lose a few places at the start, or in the opening stages, and that he would eventually finish well behind the regular leaders. That was not the case.
Jarno overtook Villeneuve at the first corner and assumed the race lead when Hakkinen’s McLaren broke down on lap one. He then began an incredible opening stint and consistently pulled away from the field at around half a second per lap. Trulli built up a comfortable lead until his first pitstop on lap 37. It was a brilliant drive, especially from a rookie.
Trulli suffered an engine failure on lap 58 which robbed of a well deserved podium but the performance marked him out as a star of the future.
A qualifier, not a racer
During his time with Prost, and later Jordan, Jarno Trulli earned him a reputation for being fast in qualifying but not during races. It was true that he would often fall backwards throughout a Grand Prix but the assessment that he was a weak racer was perhaps unfair.
Although he was not aggressive in wheel-to-wheel combat, Jarno’s racing ability was not substandard. Rather, his qualifying speed was so incredible that it overshadowed his pace on a Sunday afternoon. He was able to qualify a car higher than realistically expected and this was exposed over a 60 lap race.
Throughout his career Trulli managed some incredible performances having started races at the back of the grid, proving that he is more than capable of delivering the results on race day.
The peak of his career
In 2004 Jarno Trulli had developed into one of the sport’s finest drivers. He was pushing and beating Fernando Alonso in the same team - arguably more than anyone else has managed since. The speed was there and, with the car to match, Trulli was a genuine front runner able to mix it with the very best. He led the Spanish Grand Prix, outqualified Alonso in six of the first eight races (often by a comfortable margin), and put it all together for victory on the streets of Monte Carlo.
The 2004 Monaco Grand Prix is undoubtedly the highlight of Jarno Trulli’s career. He beat Fernando
Alonso and Michael Schumacher in a straight fight around F1’s most acrobatic circuit. It was a very well deserved win as noted by Martin Brundle who said that Trulli had “been immense for the best part of twelve months”.
Turning point
The pivotal moment in Trulli’s career came during the 2004 French Grand Prix. It was a crucial race for his Renault team who had been hoping for another strong showing in front of their patriotic home crowd. As it turned out, Renault was beaten by a cunning Ferrari strategy, but second and third places still ensured plenty of French blue on the podium and a positive story despite the defeat.
On the last corner of the last lap Jarno’s patchy racecraft let him down and he allowed Rubens Barrichello to slide ahead into third. The podium was then dominated by the prancing horse and Renault’s pride took a big hit. Trulli made a mistake in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He copped a royal serve from his team boss and manager, Flavio Briatore, and that triggered a breakdown in their relationship.
Having your team boss acting as your manager is a fantastic arrangement when everything is working well, but it’s a nightmare when problems start to develop. Trulli fell out of favour with Briatore and was dropped by Renault before the end of the 2004 season, despite having more points on the board than Alonso.
Jarno missed his chance to race with Renault during their championship glory years.
What might have been
It has since emerged that Jean Todt offered Trulli a seat at Ferrari but it was an offer that Jarno could not accept as he had already signed a long-term deal with Toyota. The timing of this offer has not been confirmed but given it was after Jarno had signed for Toyota (2004) and before Todt left the Scuderia (2007) it was presumably the seat that went to Felipe Massa in 2006.
It is very easy to play “what if” in Formula One but if Jarno had joined Ferrari during their time of transition between the Schumacher and Alonso eras he could have established himself as one of the most celebrated Italian figures in the sport’s history.
Jarno drove beautifully for Toyota and was without doubt their most competitive Grand Prix driver. He scored the team’s first podium, first pole position, and came close on more than one occasion to securing victory for the Japanese manufacturer. When he arrived at Toyota he instantly lifted the level of performance and they rewarded him with a lucrative contract that made him one of the highest paid drivers in Formula One. Trulli was exceptionally loyal to the team (especially since he turned down a Ferrari drive) and built up a very strong bond with the Toyota company. Some of Jarno’s finest drives were in the red and white cars which suggested that he continued to mature as a driver and would have been capable of building on his success at Renault in a different environment.
The end
Jarno’s last two years with Lotus were not his strongest as he was unable to drive around the car’s deficiencies. In particular, he struggled with the power steering that didn’t provide the level of feedback he was comfortable with. There were still flashes of brilliance although they were buried at the back of the field and were overshadowed by Heikki Kovalainen’s rejuvenation. Jarno’s seat was at risk whilst the team searched for a suitable driver with funding and this week’s final chapter was not a surprise.
Trulli’s career is one to be celebrated and he can walk away from the sport with is head held high.
Jarno Trulli was an exciting Formula One driver who lasted 15 years in one of the world’s most competitive sports. At his best, Trulli was completely unassailable, and for a brief period at Renault he was genuine World Champion material. His electric driving style and friendly demeanour will be missed but the sport moves on and so will Jarno. Whatever the future holds, Jarno Trulli will be remembered as a Grand Prix driver who could muster up more raw speed over a single knife-edge lap than any of his contemporaries.
And after all, driving a car as fast as it will go is what Formula One is all about.
Posted by Martin Porter. - Follow him on twitter @mpondaweb.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-10-2012, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Jarno Trulli’s greatest drives

The Bite Point: Jarno Trulli's greatest drives

Jarno Trulli was not the most consistent Formula One driver but he was certainly capable of producing some world-beating performances in a Grand Prix car. With the popular Italian bowing out of the sport, here is a look at some of Trulli’s greatest drives.
Austria 1997
Jarno Trulli marked himself as a man of the future in just his sixth race with the Prost team in 1997. Trulli qualified a stunning third, overtook Jacques Villeneuve at the first corner, and commandingly led the first 37 laps with a string of consistently fast times. An engine failure prevented Jarno from reaching the podium but a star was born.
Europe 1999
The 1999 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was simply a case for survival (the driver who started 14th won after a series of rain showers) but Trulli’s second place became a well deserved hard fought position in the closing stages. Over the final five laps Jarno held off the much faster Stewart of Rubens Barrichello with a stunning display of defensive driving. It was Trulli’s first podium finish.
Monaco 2000
Jarno Trulli’s first realistic chance of victory came in the 2000 Monaco Grand Prix. He brilliantly qualified on the front row and was running ahead of eventual winner - David Coulthard - when his gearbox gave way. Had Trulli’s car made the distance, and had he been able to hold off DC during the pitstops, he would have earned a sensational race victory.
Germany 2000
Another strong podium went begging at Hockenheim when Trulli was erroneously given a ten second stop go penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. Jarno served his penalty (which the FIA later admitted was given incorrectly) whilst fighting with the McLarens and eventual winner, Rubens Barrichello. Ninth place was little reward for his speed that afternoon.
Malaysia 2001
Trulli spun on lap four of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, but at least he spun whilst in the lead! He had qualified strongly and inherited first place when the Ferrari’s hit trouble. Although Jarno earned the ignominious honour of taking himself out of first place, he could take solace in the fact that every other driver went off the circuit at some point during a monsoon, including the car immediately behind Trulli that followed him into the gravel. Jarno recovered to finish the race in eighth.
Italy 2002
Renault’s electronics were problematic at times in 2002 and so it proved at Monza when Trulli’s launch control system failed on the warm-up lap. Forced to start from the very back of the grid, Trulli overtook eight cars in the first eight corners and stormed through the pack to finish in fourth just five seconds off a podium. It was a mighty performance that proved Jarno was not just a strong qualifier, but a great racer as well.
USA and Japan 2003
Jarno had the raw pace to win the final two races of the 2003 season but was unable to convert his speed into results. In both cases, Trulli had dominated practice and Friday qualifying only for it to go wrong on his hot lap to set grid position. At Indianapolis Jarno crashed shortly before qualifying and was forced to run in the unfamiliar spare car. He set a time two seconds off his pace the day before and started in tenth instead of from the front row. His run to fourth place in the race was strong but a podium and a small chance of victory had been on the cards. Two weeks later in Japan Jarno’s Saturday lap was spoiled by rain that sent him to the back of the grid, and robbing of yet another fight for victory. Fernando Alonso proved the car was capable of leading, and Jarno showed that he was on top form that weekend by slicing through the field to fourth.
Spain 2004
The first five seconds of the 2004 Spanish Grand Prix made every highlights reel for the next twelve months. Trulli instantly shot from fourth place into the lead after a remarkable jump off the line and comfortably held the race lead until his first pitstop. Although Jarno’s early race heroics defined his performance in Spain, Trulli finished the job by landing on the podium ahead of Fernando Alonso in fourth.
Monaco 2004
Jarno Trulli’s finest hour. He dominated practice, qualifying, and led every lap except five on his way to victory. Jarno beat Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher (in his peak) around a true drivers circuit and cemented himself amongst the elite to have won at Monaco.
Malaysia 2005
Toyota’s first podium was also one of Trulli’s most impressive performances. Jarno finished second behind Fernando Alonso’s dominant Renault lapping very consistently at a time when no tyre changes were allowed. This wasn’t a lucky podium due to attrition, but was earned from genuine pace.
USA 2006
Jarno Trulli had a real affinity for some circuits and Indianapolis was one of them. The US Grand Prix saw another one of his great fighting drives in 2006 when technical dramas in qualifying forced him to start from the pitlane. Although a large accident at turn one removed much of Jarno’s competition, he still moved forward through the pack in an uncompetitive Toyota to finish a brilliant fourth – his best result of the year.
France 2008
Trulli’s fourth podium for Toyota was defined by his aggressive driving at the end of the race in tricky conditions. Under huge pressure from Heikki Kovalainen in a much faster McLaren, Trulli put on a rare display of robust driving to give Toyota their best result of 2008.
Australia 2009
Toyota only scored 13 podiums during their time in Formula One so the fact that Jarno managed one of them after starting from the pitlane is very impressive. Although the 2009 Australian Grand Prix was a mixed up race, Trulli still fought through the backmarkers decisively in the early stages and kept his pace up towards the end.
Bahrain 2009
Toyota had a few opportunities to win a Grand Prix but none greater than at Bahrain in 2009. Both cars qualified on the front row and, if it wasn’t for an inexplicable decision to put their drivers on the slower hard tyres in the middle of the race (as opposed to the final stint like everyone else), Toyota should have won the Grand Prix. As it was, Trulli still managed to salvage third but it could have been so much better.
Suzuka 2009
Some believe Jarno Trulli’s drive in the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix was his greatest ever performance, and if he had left Formula One with Toyota it would have been the fitting end to a great career. Trulli finished just five seconds behind the mighty Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and gave the Japanese manufacturer a great result on home soil. If Vettel had suffered the same problems that befell his teammate that afternoon, Toyota and Jarno Trulli’s Formula One story would be very different.
Posted by Martin Porter. - Follow him on twitter @mpondaweb.
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