Friday, April 19, 2013

Last of Minardi’s Two Hundreder’s...


NO Son, You haven’t done Bad for a Number Two Driver at All! (Image source: telegraph.co.uk)
While the majority of the viewing public was aghast over Master ‘Zebb’s (Vettel) “You’re Breaking Up” radio antics; the most celebrated Minardi F1 Team Alumni was making a farce out of his 200th Grand Prix start, when “Fredrico Suave,” aka Fred Alonso badly misjudged the damage to his Ferrari’s front wingplate  and went skating off into the Kitty-litter el Pronto!

Now its time for Take Two! As arguably the lil Minnowesqe Italian squad’s second most successful Gran Primo Piloto Mark Webber is celebrating his 200th Grand Prix start this weekend in Bahrain.

Alonso        Webber
Year started: 2001                 2002
Starts: 202                              200
Wins: 30                                 9
Podiums: 87                           35
Poles: 22                                 11
Fastest laps: 19                       14
(Stats as of 2013 Malaysian GP; EXCLUDING Race Starts)

Obviously Alonso is Minardi’s greatest driver ever, being the only one to go on to capture the world championship twice to date, while I believe Webber is P2 having scored nine Grand Prix victories to date - which would have been ten if Sebastian Vettel hadn’t pulled out his earplugs in Malaysia...


Other notable Minardi Alumni include the likes of Pierluigi Martini, who singlehandedly scored nearly 50% of the team’s coveted Constructors points, wracking up 16 of the 38 total tally.

And there were at least two F3000 International champions who cut their teeth at Minardi, Christian Fittipaldi and Justin Wilson. Along with four other B-I-G Italiano names from the Minardi roll: Michele Alboreto, Alessandro Nannini, Jarno Trulli and Alex Zanardi, while two popular Dutchman have spent time with the team on both sides of the pond - their names being Jos “THE BOSS” Verstappen and Robert Doornbos, who later became known stateside as “Bad Bobby D.” Not to mention the sport’s last “Niederlander” Cristijan Albers spending his Formula 1 rookie season with the squad before “Guido-the-Dutchman,” aka Giedo van der Garde made his F1 debut this season with Caterham...

Both Alonso and Webber made their F1 debuts for Minardi at the Australian Grand Prix, albeit Alonso had moved onto greener pastures - effectively making way for Webber’s arrival by moving to le Reggie (Renault) to spend a year as its test driver before replacing ‘JENSE  (Button) who moved to BAR-Honda. Ironically I believe both of Renault’s drivers were under the management of Flavour ‘Flav, (Flavio Briatore) who’d also been reinserted as the Team Principal, as Renault had bought out the Benetton team that he’d previously managed; while Webber’s still under the spell of “HMS Monogram” (Briatore) for management services...

And the rest as they say is history, as Alonso went on to become Double World Champion (2005-06) with Renault; had an acrimonious one year term with McLaren before scurrying back to the faltering ‘Reggie before ultimately being lured away to la Scuderia, nee Ferrari.

Meanwhile, Webber seemed to be a man casting adrift by going to teams who seemed to be on the downward leg of the F1 Constructors trough by signing on with Team ‘Willy after it had lost its might with the powerful factory BMW ‘lumps, and then moving to Jaguar which seemed in a similar state of disrepute while trying to live up to the Eddie Irvine glory dazes while Ford seemed to be losing interest with the sport before ‘Deeter Majestik bought it and rebranded it Red Bull Racing...

Or potentially Y’all could say that  el Zorro, nee Alex Zanardi was Minardi’s second most successful driver? Although the Italian had less than a favourable Formula 1 career, as I still seem to recall having a black & white magazine  picture of him smashing his head against his Team Lotus cockpit in a monstrous crash...

Yet without Zanardi coming to America to drive for who he called ‘Cheep, (Ganassi) we’d have NO celebratory victory doughnuts - which became his signature trademark every time his red Target racecar won in CART; not to mention what’s simply known as: “THE PASS!”

As Alex would dominate the Championship Auto Racing Teams landscape from 1996-98, wracking up 15-victories en route to winning two championship titles back-to-back (1997-98) before unwisely returning to Formula 1 with Williams who’d just lost their Works Renault V-10 supply.

But Zanardi is the only alum to have won two gold & one  silver medal in the Paralympics, which he captured in London during the 2012 Summer Games...

Justin Wilson’s time in F1 might have been short, but he’s made a pretty good show out of his Open wheel Racing career  stateside first in  Champ Car and then later in IndyCar, where he’s collected a total of seven victories to date, including Newman Haas Racing’s final victory plus Dale Coyne’s only two wins ever. As the lanky Brit’s stature has earned him the moniker ‘BIG UNIT, as I’ll always fondly recall Wilson and Webber dwarfing the shorter Scott “Scooter” Pruett when they were teammates briefly at Jaguar and Pruett was driving a bud Light ‘Jag as well; while I’m ARSE-sumin’ that Wilson’s the only team alum to have won the Rolex 24 at Daytona...


Michele Alboreto notched up all five of his Grand Prix victories before coming to Minardi at the twilight of his F1 career before retiring - then unfortunately lost his life testing an Audi Sports Car at the Lausitzring, which also proved diabolical for Zanardi. Yet I’m guessing that Michele is the only Minardi alum to have won the 24 Heurs du Mans, eh?

Dorrnbos took up residence with Minardi Team USA  in Champ Car and promptly reeled off two victories in his rookie season, which he also won the 2007 Rookie Of the Year honours en route to finishing third overall in the championship - but was unable to make the jump successfully to the Indy Racing League when it merged; Err took over Champ Car in ‘Tweny-oh-Eight, as he seemingly torpedoed his career there by dumping Newman Haas in favour of the now defunct Conquest Racing team and hasn’t been heard of since...

Christian Fittipaldi’s lone win came in CART at Road America, where afterwards Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach (Senior) had to eat his hat - or something to the effect from a bet he’d made with the young Brazilian...

Alessandro Nannini’s career was cut short by a helicopter accident after he’d won the controversial 1989 Japanese Grand Prix for Benetton, his solitary Grand Prix win, with thee Trulli ‘Scrumptious, aka Jarno Trulli becoming Minardi’s initial 200 Grand Prix club member with a final tally of 252-starts - currently the fourth most ever, albeit just seeing the chequered flag once for Renault in the Principality. (Monte Carlo)

And with the little Italian team that could being sold by Paul Stoddart to Dietrich Mateschitz and henceforth being renamed Scuderia Toro Rosso, Mark ‘Handlebarz Webber will close the books upon Minardi 200 GP Starts inductees, who’ll hopefully break into the double digits for career victories soon...

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