Tuesday April 10th, 2001
Jarno Trulli is one of only two Italian drivers in Formula One, yet Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola does not rate highly in his affections.
"Imola or Monza are not special Grand Prix for me," said the Pescara-born 26-year-old who has yet to finish at Imola in four attempts or be placed higher than 10th at Monza.
"I feel Italian and I am Italian but probably I don't have an Italian attitude. It is probably more English.
"That is probably because I've been involved in motorsport for such a long time, I travel all around the world and I've learned a lot from other cultures."
Named after the late Finnish motorcycle rider Jarno Saarinen, Trulli was so little known in Italy when he first arrived in Formula One that many thought he was from Finland.
The Jordan driver still insists on talking to his Italian race engineer in English.
Compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella, despite scoring an unexpected point in Brazil last weekend, has struggled to keep up this season in an uncompetitive Benetton so hopes of a local victory are invested in Trulli.
After a long run of bad luck, Trulli finally broke through into the points at Interlagos with a fifth place -- his first scoring race since the French Grand Prix last July.
This weekend the locals will be cheering for Ferrari in what amounts to the world champions' home race. Trulli is just happy to be driving a competitive car.
Jordan finished third overall in 1999 but their car turned unreliable just as Trulli joined from Prost in 2000.
"Last year's car wasn't much better than the Prost one, reliability was very poor. This year I think I am driving a very good car that seems reliable," he said.
The Italian placed in the points in Brazil, Britain, Canada and France last year but then his luck turned.
He was in third place at Hockenheim when he suffered a stop-go penalty. He was fourth on the opening lap at Monza but went out after an accident involving Frentzen.
Trulli qualified on the front row at Monaco but went out with gearbox failure, and also in Spa in Belgium where he was dumped out by the Williams of Briton Jenson Button. The two collided again in the United States Grand Prix. This season, the bad luck continued. In Melbourne his engine failed and in Malaysia he was leading the race at Sepang when the weather changed.
"It was raining really hard on only one part of the track and I couldn't evaluate how hard it was raining," he said.
"I just spun on the straight on aquaplaning and it was over. I was still on dry tyres and was trying to get back to the pits.
"Probably for the first time in my life I wished I was not leading a Grand Prix at that stage."
"It seems that things are not happening well for me. It's just a period probably that I hope is going to finish very soon," he said before the Brazilian Grand Prix. "To have a good result you also need some luck."
That was only partially the case in Brazil. Trulli was fourth at the first corner but began to suffer clutch problems.
"Unfortunately I came in to pit just one lap before the rain, so I had to come in again on the next lap for wets," he said. "It's a shame that I lost time on both pit stops, the first because the refuelling rig jammed."
Trulli eventually finished fifth after team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who has five championship points, went out with an engine misfire six laps from the end while third.
The two, evenly matched as ever before the race, had qualified just three thousandths of a second apart.
"You never know how things go," said Trulli. "You need some luck and I deserved so many podium finishes from last year."
Trulli's best career result is second in the rain-hit European Grand Prix of 1999 in a Prost at the Nurburgring, a race won by the Stewart of Britain's Johnny Herbert.
Two years before that, as a stand-in for the injured Frenchman Olivier Panis at Prost, he finished fourth at Hockenheim and made his name by leading the Austrian Grand Prix. He was just 23.
Team owner Eddie Jordan, who was jubilant when he secured Trulli's services alongside Frentzen, believes the Italian is well capable of shining at Imola despite his past record.
"The thing about Jarno is that he's quick everywhere. He can shine anywhere," said Jordan. "He's one of those guys who does need his fair share of luck to get on with it.
"So when it does happen, it will be fine."