Luis Pérez-Sala, the former Grand Prix racer turned team principal, is today celebrating his 53rd birthday!
While known in today’s circles as the ever-smiling and softly-spoken team principal of the HRT F1 team, Pérez-Sala also contested 32 Grands Prix for the Minardi team in 1988-9, earning a championship point finish along the way, which many will agree is a rare feat for that little Italian team!
Born in Barcelona, Luis didn’t make waves when he competed in the 1985 Italian Formula 3 championship, although he did win a round during the season.
However, staying on with the same Pavesi team as he graduated into Formula 3000, Luis drove very well and took two wins, at Enna and Birmingham en route to fifth overall in the Drivers’ standings.
This booked him a place on the top-shelf Lola team for 1987, and he took two more wins – at Donington and Le Mans – on the way to finishing runner-up to Stefano Modena.
And with Spain starting to re-emerge as a possible source for F1 talent once again, Sala joined team-mate Adrián Campos to make his F1 debut at Minardi in 1988 and immediately outpaced his compatriot, who was dumped mid-season in favour of Pierluigi Martini.
Martini’s return to the team very much cast Luis into the shadows – the Italian took the team’s first-ever championship point on his return race, no less – and this was perhaps magnified in 1989 when the team started to become a more competitive prospect.
However, his one bright moment came when he and Pierluigi finished together in the points at Silvestone – the only time that the Minardi team managed this result on merit in their lengthy tenure in F1.
Without a drive in 1990, Luis headed to the Spanish touring car scene (winning the 1993 title) before later turning his attention to educating other prospective racing drivers. Among those who have benefited from his supervision are none other than two of the HRT outfit’s own drivers: Pedro de la Rosa and Dani Clos.
We had the great pleasure of meeting and interview Luis on his very first Grand Prix weekend as HRT’s team principal during the Australian Grand Prix, and you can read the interview in full at this link.
[Images via Auto 123, Racing Diaries, Sutton Images, Yalla F1]