Trulli axed by Caterham
THERE will be no Italian drivers on the F1 grid in 2012 after Jarno Trulli was axed on Friday by the Caterham Formula One team. The veteran has been, as expected, replaced by Renault refugee Vitaly Petrov. With less than a month to go before the green light in Australia, the announcement still comes as a surprise, considering that Trulli had taken part in the first pre-season test at Jerez a fortnight ago.
Petrov, who scored his maiden F1 podium finish in Melbourne last season, finished tenth in the driver’s championship and is about to start his third full season in Grand Prix racing. The Russian’s form faded badly in the closing stages of 2011 and an extraordinary outburst in the press aimed at Renault after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sealed his demise from the Enstone team. Nevertheless, he has shown his capabilities at this level and will give Heikki Kovalainen more of a fight at the Caterham unit than Trulli ever did.
Speaking to JA on F1 from the Caterham headquarters on Friday, Petrov said; “I think they (Caterham) did a big improvement the last two years so now they have a new car, new factory from this summer, so they are moving on the right direction. I think this was the main target for them and also you can see these people want to achieve at least something in Formula 1, not to be just one of the teams. They want to achieve good results in the next (few) years so this is why it’s quite interesting to work with them.”
The move all but ends Trulli’s unspectacular Formula One career. The Italian made his F1 debut for Minardi in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, but moved to Prost mid-season to replace the injured Olivier Panis. He then sensationally led the Austrian Grand Prix, but struggled to relive his early potential. Inconsistency dogged him throughout, with the tendency to qualify brilliantly, only to drift away on raceday. Trulli raced for Prost, Jordan, Renault and Toyota – winning just once, the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix. He joined Lotus (as formerly known) in 2010, but has struggled with the chassis in the last two years, consistenly outperformed by Kovalainen. 13th place in last year’s race at Monaco was his best finish for his last F1 team. Trulli’s relationship seemed to deteriorate because of his failure to cope with a power steering set-up. He was even replaced at the Nurburgring by Karun Chandok last season, which indicated that things weren’t all too well.
Tony Fernandes, the boss of Air Asia and Caterham did admit to BBC Sport that finances did have their part to play. “It was (a decision) one we made to ensure we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.”
Trulli’s exit means there will be no Italian driver on the F1 grid for the first time since 1969.