He has just closed his TCR International Series season with Honda Civic, but he defended the colors of Minardi Team in Formula 1 World Championship from 1990 to 1992. Minardi.it has met Gianni Morbidelli just back from Argentine to relive those years along with Gian Carlo Minardi and his boys.
After joining Scuderia Italia, you made your debut with Minardi in 1990 during the US Grand Prix that was preparatory to entire 1991 season.
The two last grand prix of 1990 season were the prelude to two beautiful years with Gian Carlo Minardi. It was like a family life with true human relationships. I had the opportunity to learn a lot and to grow professionally. From the point of view of results, we had some difficult races because we lacked reliability. In qualifying we could safeguard ourselves at first thanks to Ferrari and then to Lamborghini engines, but during the race we have always had a lot of problems due to reliability. M191 was the first car signed by a very young Aldo Costa who proved all his value in Mercedes, and with whom I have maintained a wonderful relationship. In 1991 he managed a difficult very long 12-cylinder which also created some twisting complications on the frame.
You spent with Gian Carlo Minardi’s team also ’92 season. Which moment do you remember more pleasantly?
The Mexican Grand Prix was one of the most beautiful one, I closed in seventh and missed the point zone just for a place. Unfortunately, unlike today, points were assigned in dribs and drabs at that time. Qualifying in Imola is another pleasant memory: Pierluigi Martini faced me till death, tenth after tenth, and we both gained the top 10. One can’t forget the excellent cuisine of Minardi. Drivers from other teams used to come and eat under our pavilion. I have maintained a good relationship with many of them and particularly with Luca Zama.
The most difficult moment?
It is linked to a tragicomic event. During qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, I destroyed my Minardi due to an incomprehension with Jean Alesi. Into the pits, Gian Carlo made me get on the spare car to end my session. Then the suspension stopped to work and I crashed again. At that point, from the radio, Gian Carlo Minardi told me:” come back, but don’t hurry up, after all we are short of cars”. Even in the most difficult moments, he has always been able to defuse tensions with a joke or an adage from Romagna.
How did the Circus change your life?
In that period I had a double visibility, I was a first-string for a F1 team, and I was also a Ferrari test driver. The fame and all the events overpowered me. I was in a kind of limbo, also because I was very young. I was in the place where every guy would have liked to be. I didn’t realized what was going on. Everything was lived with enthusiasm. Instead, growing up I enjoyed the experience.
The transition period from 1991 to 1990 spectated the arrival of Ferrari engine in Faenza.
Compared to Ford…it was totally a different world. At that time cars were constantly improved.We passed from 8 to 12-cylinder. Just because of the couple and the noise, they were two opposite “means”. 12-cylinder “sound” was a symphony. Driving it was a pleasure.
If you had to tell a particular and funny story about Gian Carlo Minardi and his Romagna?
The phrases that he was usual to say, something like “Let’s pack the violin and let’s go” or “Confident is dead”. I remember Gian Carlo’s humanity fondly. We were accustomed to eat piadina romagnola and tortellini, but once invited in Kyoto by a Japanese sponsor we had to stay in a typical Japanese hotel with all their customs and habits, from the cuisine to massages, very long ones. We laughed a lot.
You shared the pit with Martini-Fittipladi and Zanardi. Who was the nut harder to crack?
Definitely Piero Martini. A real bulldog and an integral part of Minardi team. He was fast and determined. I was an ambitious young, and he was a successful driver. He has been a great stimulus to push stronger and stronger.
You have just closed TCR International Series.
Among high and low moments. We have also led the championship, but in the second part of the season we experienced some problem with the turbo and the brakes that excluded us from the challenge for the title. Compared to others, our car was “unripe” due to a lack of kilometers. I am in an excellent relationship with the team and I have the will to continue with TCR. I hope to define my 2016 schedule by Christmas.