F1 Birthday: 13/7/2011

In 1997, a young Italian driver made his way into Formula One for the first time. Back then he drove for Minardi – a long-standing team with limited success. Later, he moved to Prost – the renamed Ligier team. Today, he drives for a young, up-and-coming team – or an old team that took a break before returing to F1 with new ownership. It’s Jarno Trulli‘s 37th birthday today!

Before Formula One, Jarno competed in various Formula Three seasons. His first full season was 1995 in German F3, when he finished 4th taking two wins. The next year he finished 1st with 6 wins, 7 poles and 1 fastest lap. So of course he had to move to F1.
While driving for Prost that first season, he almost had the opportunity to secure a win in his rookie year. At the Austrian Grand Prix, he qualified third behind Mika Hakkinen and Jaques Villeneuve. An engine failure for Hakkinen saw Jarno get into the lead, and he was 2nd on lap 58 when his engine failed.
He stayed at Prost for the next two years, picking up 7 points in 1999 to finish 11th in the championship. He got his first podium that year, finishing 2nd at the Nurburgring between two Stewart drivers – the only race that team ever won or had two drivers on the podium for. Sadly it was Prost’s last ever podium. Jarno had qualified 10th, but a massive number of failures and collisions on a wet-dry track allowed the result.
In 2000, Jarno began driving for a new team – Jordan. The Jordan car immediately helped Jarno to improve, and he got several points finishes that year. The next season he had some more. But Jordan still weren’t getting Trulli anywhere so he moved teams to the returning Renault team alongside young British driver Jenson Button. Fernando Alonso was Renault reserve back then. Jarno finished 8th in the championship with 9 points.
The 2003 season saw a change to the F1 points system, now allowing the first eight finishers to score in each race. Jarno finished 8th again with 33 points, and scored in all but one race that he finished. He got Renault a podium at the German Grand Prix, but his new, young, Spanish teammate was shining and won the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole.
Mid-2004, it was the Monaco Grand Prix. Jarno took pole – his first ever. Despite his car leaking coolant onto the track, he was able to start. Takuma Sato’s car exploded spectacularly, causing Fisi and Coulthard to collide. The three had to retire. Once the safety car had gone in, Alonso battled with his teammate but Trulli kept the lead – though it was close. After the first round of pit stops, Jarno was ahead of Alonso, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Button. There were more retirements, including Alonso after a attempting to lap Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel. The safety car came out, surprising JP Montoya who intersected with Schumacher and preventing the German from any hopes of a sixth consecutive victory. Instead, Jarno won with Button second and Barrichello third – the three were a lap ahead of the rest. To date, this is the Italian’s only victory.
At the end of the 2004 season, Jarno changed teams to Toyota having been sacked by Renault for reasons that have never been fully understood. But moving to Toyota showed that he still had speed as he took the pole at the US Grand Prix. On the other hand, he never actually raced there because ofthe Michelin problem. He finished 7th in the championship. For the next couple of seasons, Jarno’s abilities were clouded by collisions and mechanical failures. At the end of 2007, there were rumours that Jarno would be replaced by Heikki Kovalainen. Instead, he gained Timo Glock as a teammate.
The partnership was to last two years. For once, his season began well and he scored several points including a podium in France, and finishing 8th from a front row start in Brazil. In 2009, he was forced to start from the pit lane in the first race then finished 3rd. Thus began ‘liegate’, when Hamilton lied about Jarno overtaking him under the safety car. This had the Brit disqualified from the race. Jarno’s most recent pole came at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and he also achieved his only ever fastest lap. He finished that season in 8th – his last with Toyota as the team were unable to continue in F1.
But Jarno was able to continue. With three new teams coming in, he joined Lotus Racing alongside Kovalainen. He finished 21st in the championship after a lot of car failures. For the first time ever he had a pointsless season in F1, and he also recorded his fourth DNS.
In 2011 with Lotus Racing becoming Team Lotus, Jarno has managed a best finish of 13th with the team, placing him at the top of the three ‘new teams’ drivers. His car hasn’t been failing him so much, but it’s still been wobbly for the Norfolk-based Malaysian team. Now the third-eldest driver on the grid, there are question marks over his future. But with an impressive career behind him – marred with a lot of bad luck – Jarno is without doubt one of the better drivers to take to the track in F1.

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