Having ploughed an inconsistent path for 8 years with manufacturer teams – Renault and then Toyota – Jarno Trulli found himself jettisoned from the Japanese team when it withdrew from F1 activities.
Solace was found at the new Lotus team, and Jarno knows he is under no illusions that he is in for one tough assignment. With the team having barely been given the green light to enter F1 just five months’ ago, hopes of a podium result are a pipedream in 2010, and points would be a loft ambition indeed.
The presence of a key figure in Mike Gascoyne as the team’s Technical Director – a long-time Trulli ally from their days together at Jordan, Renault and Toyota – convinced him that some short-term pain in a new team might be required if he wants to find his way back to the top of the grid.
Jarno will be a massive asset to the team in its first year on the grid. He is an exceptional driver, particularly in qualifying, where he has often been able to haul cars far higher up the grid than they deserve.
However, he is also an enigma – one some weekends he can be truly electrifying when the car is to his liking, but on other Grand Prix weekends he is all but invisible in the midfield.
In a situation not too dissimilar to the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno had just over two dozen car races to his name before he made his F1 debut.
A brilliant karter, Jarno vauled straight into the German Formula 3 championship midway through the 1995 season, and peaked with a double-win at the end of the season. A full season in 1996 where he utterly dominated the series was enough to earn him a call-up to Formula 1 under the management of Flavio Briatore.
Jarno made his F1 debut with the back-of-the-grid Minardi outfit, and while he didn’t set the world on fire, he performed above expectations in the early stages and was praised by team boss Gian Carlo Minardi for his skills at the wheel.
When Olivier Pani suffered his leg-breaking shunt at that year’s Canadian GP, Jarno was helicoptered into the role. Initially he failed to live up to the blistering form, but his name hit the headlines with a storming drive at the Australian GP, where he qualified well and shot into the lead. He looked on course for an upset win until his Peugeot engine blew.
Rewarded with a full-time berth at Prost for 1998, the car was a pig and he picked up a single point at the attrition-hit Belgian GP.
He had a better 1999 season, but the car was a marginal improvement. His best result came at the freakish European GP at the Nurburgring, where he kept his head in the changeable conditions and held off a charging Rubens Barrichello for second place, his first podium finish.
Incredibly, it would be four years until he next hit the podium at the German GP in a Renault, after frustrating seasons with Jordan (2000-1) and then the French marque (2002-4).
It was around this time that Trulli’s reputation as a brilliant qualifier but inconsistent racer became to take shape.
It came together brilliantly on one sunny weekend in Monaco in 2004, when Jarno rocketed around the Principality top take pole, and then beat all-comers on race day to score an emphatic and emotional first (and so far, only) win in F1.
By season’s end, his relationship with Briatore had completely deteriorated – particularly as a result of an inexcusable loss of third place to Barrichello’s Ferrari at the final corner of the French GP – and he was sacked by the team after the Italian GP.
By season’s end, he had made his debut with Toyota – who had signed him for the 2005 season.
His first season with the Japanese squad was arguably his best – comprehensively out-pacing his team-mate Ralf Schumacher and picking up the squad’s first two podium finishes and pole position.
The 2006 and 2007 seasons were leaner in comparison, but the team’s form began to pick up in 2008 and they were looking serious by the start of the 2009 season.
Despite a complex double diffuser being race-ready at the start of the season, the TF109 was very inconsistent – going from a front-row contender in Bahrain to last-row loser at Monaco in a matter of weeks. When the car worked, Jarno managed to hit the podium three times and peaked with a brilliant and really racy second place at the Japanese GP.
And then Toyota decided to quit F1…
- Pound for pound, one of the fastest qualifiers over a single lap.
- Massively experienced, he is allied with Mike Gascoyne and will be of huge benefit to Lotus in developing its car.
- If the car isn’t set up to his liking, he can be very anonymous and doesn’t appear able to overcome the car’s handling deficiencies.
- How will he cope in a smaller environment after being immersed in the bigger manufacturer squads for so long?
What defines success in 2010?
- Take the Lotus team to the ‘best of the new bunch’ standings.
- Challenge for the occasional points finish by the end of the season.
[Images via StatsF1]