The final round of the F.1 World Championship will take place at Interlagos this week end. Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel are the Championship’s leaders, followed by a very performing Lotus which is the Championship’s second force, even if it’s fourth in the constructors’ championship.
The Brazilian GP has always had a special tone for Gian Carlo Minardi, as it represents the beginning of an adventure which last 340 GP: “April 5 1985, 9.30 a.m., Jacarepagua Circuit, the first free practice session starts. We entered into F.1. Besides all the work done to assemble the car and arrange the first trip overseas, we truly realized what we had been able to do only when we powered up the car’s engine to run the first lap”, says Gian Carlo Minardi.
Before telling this story, we have to make an effort and get back to the ‘80s, to 1980, to be more precise. That is the year Minardi established his Team and took part in the Formula 2 Championship as a constructor, but he already had F.1 in his mind. The team got good results with Michele Alboreto, Alessandro Nannini, Paolo Barilla and Pier Luigi Martini, but the main goal was to compete in the top series. The great opportunity came in 1984, when the Faenza-born entrepreneur met the Alfa Romeo’s President Mr. Massacesi. At the end of a long negotiation, the President of Alfa Romeo agreed to provide Minardi with an 8-cylinder turbo engine. According to this agreement, the Faenza-born manager began to build the first Minardi F.1 car which was launched in July 1984. Everything was ready when Alfa did an about face on its promise. But by then it was too late to turn back the clock. The Minardi F.1 had already joined the World Championship, so it was decided to equip the car with a Ford-Cosworth/Mader aspired engine for the first rounds, whilst awaiting a new-born company “Motori Moderni” owned by Piero Mancini and Carlo Chiti to provide the team with a 6-cylinder 1500 turbo engine.
“It was an all-round debut in Rio. We were new as chassis manufacturers and we had a last-hour engine assembly. After the deal with Alfa was off, we decided to equip the car with an aspired engine to run the first two rounds, at a later stage the car would have been equipped with a turbo engine. We had to compete against some of the legends of motorsport such as Ferrari, BMW, Ford, Renault, as a private team. We had a proven experience as constructors in the F.2 Championship, but the adventure we were about to undertake was completely new to all of us. It was a small team and our car had run only few miles – the car’s body was made of honecomb steel and carbon and Kevlar inserted fiber – we had to learn everything, from track procedures to the car’s behavior. I remember with pleasure that at that time pits were casually assigned, their assignment was not based on the Championship’s standing. So it could happened that your pit was between Ferrari and McLaren or Williams, Lotus and Renault and you had the opportunity to see how they worked and gain experience”, says the manager from Faenza.
“The transition from F.2 to F.1 was the consequence of a corporate strategy which envisaged building a car conceived only for competition purposes, not for commercial purposes. We had quite a large staff to build and manage a F.2 car, but we weren’t well organized to compete in a F.1 Championship. However it was necessary to take a step forward and join the top series. We had already given proof of our skills as chassis manufacturers; however our Achille’s heel was the change in engine supply late in the season. We and Tyrrel were the only two teams whose cars were equipped with an aspired engine and despite Tyrrel’s great experience, we undertook an on par fight against them. I would like to point out that if the point’s assignment system had worked like it works today, we would have scored our first points during the first season, thanks to Martini’s eight place in Australia. “
Gian Carlo Minardi chose a very young Pierluigi Martini as his driver. The Italian driver, who is Giancarlo Martini’s nephew, ran about 103 GP alongside the Faenza-based squad “Many years have passed since that first experience; it was a very exciting day for everyone. There was a great atmosphere. We all had a strong will to do our best. We had some troubles throughout the Brazilian race week end, but it was the beginning of a new adventure”, says Pierluigi Martini.