Andrew Szekler writes about the excitement of Formula One racing.
When I first started watching F1 in the early 2000s, Jarno Trulli was known as the qualifying specialist of the grid, the man who usually had the better of his teammates in the qualifying sessions and qualified his car higher up the grid than it perhaps deserved to be.
Though he was often criticized for his sometimes lacklustre race performances, if we look at the full picture, Trulli was no worse than, and often better than most of his teammates except Fernando Alonso.
Still, as we know today, Alonso turned out to be one of the greatest drivers of his generation and coming second best to him was no shame at all.
1997 Austrian GP
Trulli made his F1 debut in 1997. At first, he was driving for the uncompetitive Minardi team, but after Olivier Panis suffered an injury at the Canadian GP, Trulli replaced the Frenchman at Prost.
Trulli had some solid performances at Prost, but he failed to score a point up until the Austrian GP. Trulli adapted fast to the new track and put his car in a surprise third place on the grid.
He had a good start and moved up to second after the first corner. He took the lead at the end of lap 1 when Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren broke down.
He was leading second-place man Barrichello and third-place man Villeneuve during the first half of the race. Barrichello was holding up Villeneuve, who eventually got by the Brazilian and started to close up on Trulli.
Villeneuve passed Trulli during the pit stops and took the lead, but Trulli was still running a strong second when his car broke down with 13 laps to go, putting an early end to a brilliant drive.
Throughout his career, Trulli gained the reputation of someone who was always fast around Monaco, and the 2000 Monaco GP weekend was no different.
The season up until Monaco was dominated by Ferrari and McLaren, but Jordan was the surprise package of the qualifying session of the weekend. Trulli took the second position, while his teammate Frentzen was fourth on the grid, both of them outqualifying one of the McLarens.
At the start, Michael Schumacher maintained his lead and immediately started to open up a gap to second-place man Trulli and the rest of the field. The McLarens looked much faster than the Jordans, but there was simply no way to pass them around the streets of Monte Carlo, and they were helpless to do anything.
Trulli was keeping Coulthard at bay up until lap 36, when he slowed down with a gearbox failure which robbed him of the reward he would have deserved for a superb weekend.
2008 French GP
Trulli had a solid start to his 2008 campaign, but considering how much Toyota was spending on their F1 project, the results of the team were slightly disappointing, to say the least.
Trulli took a strong fifth place in qualifying, which thanks to the grid drop of Lewis Hamilton was elevated into fourth. He passed Alonso at the start and from that point on, very much looked like the best of the rest after the two Ferraris, who were in the league of their own.
Trulli fought off the challenge of Alonso in the early laps and then pulled a slight gap between Alonso and Kubica.
Late in the race, it started to drizzle. McLaren man Heikki Kovalainen closed up to Trulli, but the Italian resisted the pressure of Kovalainen and maintained his third place to score Toyota’s first podium of 2008.
2005 Malaysian GP
Trulli started the season opener race in Australia in a surprise second place, but this was thanks to a wet qualifying that caused a mixed-up grid. In the bone-dry Australian race Trulli dropped back to 9th.
Trulli caused surprise when he equalled his Australian grid spot in Malaysia, but unlike in Australia, the qualifying in Malaysia was held in stable conditions, so the one-lap pace of the Toyota seemed genuine.
He had a solid start and maintained his second position after the start. Trulli lacked the pace to keep up with leader Fernando Alonso, but rather surprisingly, he was faster than Alonso’s teammate Fisichella and pulled away from the second Renault.
Trulli had a little problem maintaining his second place throughout the race, and although he was slightly lucky that Kimi Raikkonen’s puncture dropped the fast Finn from third to nine, the pace of the Toyota looked real and the Japanese team finally looked like they were making progress.
2004 Monaco GP
When Fernando Alonso became the teammate of Trulli, the young Spaniard easily had the better of Trulli in the 2003 season and outscored his more experienced teammate by a long way.
2004 seemed like a different story, however. Coming into the Monaco GP, Trulli and Alonso were tied on points, and Trulli looked the more consistent of the two. Trulli excelled in qualifying also when he took pole position from Ralf Schumacher and Alonso. Ralf Schumacher received a 10 place grid drop for an engine change, so it was the two Renaults who were on the front row of the grid.
Alonso generally had a stronger race pace than Trulli, so many expected him to jump his teammate during the race. It did not work out like that at all. Trulli maintained his lead after the start and pulled a slight gap on Alonso, while both Renaults dropped third place man Button.
Michael Schumacher jumped Button after the first round of pitstops, but not even the mighty Ferrari looked like toppling the Renaults in Monaco.
Alonso then crashed out when he wanted to lap Ralf Schumacher and brought out the SC. Schumacher stayed out and took the lead, but before he could have shown how much extra speed he had, he collided with Montoya behind the SC and was out of the race.
This left Trulli in the lead followed by Jenson Button. Button closed up to Trulli in the closing laps, but he posed no real danger and Trulli took the chequered flag for his only win in F1.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Andrew Szekler