Gian Carlo Minardi, founder of the former Formula 1 team that bore his name, is busy working to try and find the next young driver from Italy, through his involvement in the Formula ACI CSAI Abarth championship.
Minardi has a good reputation for developing young drivers. Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber all got their break in F1 with the team.
“Formula ACI CSAI Abarth is a quality championship which is about to enter the hot part of the season,” he said. “We have a very competitive grid of 18 cars, both in the Italian and European series. In the last meeting at Imola we saw two fantastic races with a lot of overtaking and duels.
“There are drivers emerging such as Luca Ghiotto. He is only 16 and in his first season of single-seaters and scored his first pole position at Imola. Unfortunately the two races were marked by incidents in which he was innocent.
“There are a lot of drivers such as Patric Niederhauser, Michael Heche and Sergey Sirotkin with a season behind them and who are fighting on an equal terms with each other. You can also add rookies Gerrard Barrabeig, Nicolas Costa and Emanuele Zonzini.”
Formula Abarth is a growing series and Minardi wants to see that continue in the future.
“ACI Sport [the series promoter] and CSAI [the Italian governing body] are already looking to 2012. We are working on several initiatives and promotions which will see us in the months following the end of the season organise the 'Mediterranean Championship' for Formula Abarth. It will involve drivers who have just finished their debut season in their respective leagues, with prizes aimed at the newcomer.
“In the winter there will be further initiatives to attract new drivers and teams to our league and our car, which we believe is the best. The Tatuus is a great car, with fantastic safety.”
As well as boosting the profile of Formula Abarth, Minardi is passionate about finding the best young Italian talent, beginning in karting.
“My job is to follow young drivers in their first steps behind the wheel of a kart. I attended two races on the tracks of Jesolo and Viterbo, and in early August I’ll be in Lonato. At the end of the season we will choose 12 drivers that will attend psycho-physical tests in Maranello. Based on the results three guys will be selected for a test at the wheel of the ACI CSAI Formula Tatuus Abarth with 120 hp.
“In recent years the CSAI, under the push of its president Angelo Sticchi Damiani and general secretary Marco Ferrari, has made a great effort by investing in young drivers in karting, Formula Abarth and Formula 3. We must invest in karting. We want to find the next Fisichella, Trulli and Liuzzi. Our job is not simple but we are able to give rise to high level championships with everybody's help, teams, parents and sponsors. We have several features in 2012 years for F3, including making an Italian Open that will branch onto F1 tracks outside the Italian border.”
Central to the search for Italian talent is collaboration with the Ferrari Driver Academy. Two of the drivers in the program, Rafaelle Marciello and Brandon Maisano, raced in Formula Abarth last year and are now doing well in Italian F3.
“The FDA has every reason to be our partner,” said Minardi. “This is the second year and we are achieving great results with Marciello and Maisano, engaged in Italian Formula 3. We are making a big effort to monitor the Italian karting championship and to give kids the opportunity to grow up.”