Seven races from the end of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, Italy risks losing its only representative in the top flight: the future of the Apulian Antonio Giovinazzi, in fact, he could be far from Alfa Romeo and from a place as an official driver for the next championship, given the rumors that the 27-year-old from Martina Franca would like to leave in favor of a young rookie, aka the Chinese Guanyu Zhou.
To date, however, these are only indiscretions, which have been dragging on for weeks without finding either official confirmation or denial. Regardless of how this soap opera will end, it is clear that the tricolor is in any case experiencing one of the most critical moments in its history in Formula 1: beyond the unconvincing performance of Ferrari, they are precisely the pilots mother tongue Italian to be the great absent from the circus. A category, in the ‘8th and’ 90s, which abounded with pilots coming from the Bel Paese, then slowly crumbling up to the present day.
As a result, the opportunities for success or podium finishes have also drastically diminished. The most evident proof can also be seen on a day like this, the anniversary of one of the most beautiful and at the same time nostalgic events in our history in Formula 1: the October 4, 2009, twelve years ago, Jarno Trulli conquered the second place In the Japanese GP. Since then, no other Italian has managed to finish in the top 3 of a race valid for the F1 world championship.
A step back in time that brings us back to 2009, one of the strangest and most controversial championships ever: the new technical-aerodynamic regulation, which radically changes the appearance of the single-seaters, surprisingly favors the Brawn GP, a rookie team born from the ashes of Honda. The cars of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, almost entirely without sponsors, dominate the first part of the season, finishing at the head of the drivers ‘championship with the English and in the constructors’ championship. Only in the second half of the calendar, Ross Brawn’s team gives way slightly to other competitors, above all the McLaren of the reigning champion Hamilton and above all the Red Bull of the increasingly emerging Sebastian Vettel.
In this climate of open struggle, we thus arrive at Suzuka, home to the third last stage of the world championship. Already during free practice, the Toyota, supported by the home crowd, replaces Timo Glock with the Japanese Kamui Kobayashi. Returning to compete in qualifying, the German driver is the victim of a bad accident during the Saturday session: painfully extracted from the car, Glock will suffer a leg injury, such as to force him to miss the next day’s race. Despite the fear, the Japanese team will be comforted in the following minutes thanks to the feat of its other driver: Jarno Trulli. Always recognized for his qualities on the flying lap, the Abruzzese finished in second position, conquering the front row of the Japanese GP behind Vettel.
In that league, Trulli is the only Italian, along with Giancarlo Fisichella, to be registered in the world championship. However, following Felipe Massa’s accident during qualifying for the Hungarian GP (with the Brazilian hit on the head by a spring that broke off Barrichello’s car), the 2008 vice-world champion becomes unavailable for the rest of the season. precisely because of the injury. At that point, Ferrari replaced the unfortunate Massa with its third driver, Luca Badoer. Ten years after the last GP disputed, the Venetian, also thanks to a not very competitive car, will not be able to meet the expectations of Ferrari, which in the meantime is working to realize the sensational return to competition of Michael Schumacher, who retired in 2006, in occasion of the Italian GP. Even in this case, however, the German is the victim of another injury, this time caused by a crash on a motorcycle, which will not allow him to rejoin the Monza crowd. At that point, the Maranello house opts for another replacement, formalizing the agreement with another Italian: Fisichella. The Roman pilot, up to that moment engaged with the Force India, therefore passes to the Red, without however offering a decisive contribution for the resumption of the Red. In the meantime, the Anglo-Indian team, left without its own top driver, is forced to replace Fisichella, promoting another Italian like the Apulian. Vitantonio Liuzzi. From the two entrants at the beginning of the season, 2009 will therefore see the total presence of four Italians.
Taking advantage of the excellent placement on the grid, Trulli sprints very well when the green light of the Japanese GP turns on, but not enough to keep Hamilton’s McLaren behind him, which in fact steals the position from the Abruzzo. Over the course of the race, however, the only Toyota driver managed to hold third until the middle of the race. In the pit stop waltz, the reigning champion is the victim of an uncertainty of his mechanics during the tire change, which is decisive for losing precious time towards Trulli. Thanks to this mistake, the Italian thus obtains the second final place, the third podium of the season and the best personal result of that year, at the same time conquering what will be the 11th and last podium of his career. This will also be the 13th and last appearance on the podium in Formula 1 for Toyota.
In this way, what still today is the last uncork of champagne for an Italian driver in Formula 1 becomes concrete. To return to what was the last success of a representative of our country, we must go back at the 2006 Malaysian GP: on that occasion, it was Giancarlo Fisichella who got on the top step of the podium, opening a very long fast that still persists today, regardless of the height of the step that welcomes the first three classified in a Formula GP 1.