JANUARY 6, 1997
Ferrari searches for a test driver
WITH Nicola Larini having joined Sauber after five years as the Ferrari test driver, the Italian team is having to look for a replacement. The obvious candidate would seem to be Gianni Morbidelli - who tested for Ferrari in 1990 and 1991. The 28-year-old has been looking for a drive in F1 having been unable to find a budget for the 1996 season. Gianni signed up as Jordan's test driver and has done considerable work with the new Peugeot V10 engine in recent months. We understand that he had reached agreement in principle to drive for the Sauber team in 1997 when Ferrari insisted that the Swiss team take Larini as part of the deal for Sauber to use 1996-spec Ferrari engines.
There is pressure on Ferrari from Marlboro Italy - which is supplying a large amount of the team's sponsorship at the moment - for the team to run a young Italian driver. A few seasons ago there were as many as 14 Italian F1 drivers. There were occasions last year when there was not a single Italian driver in a race.
The problem is that with Fisichella not likely to be available to test for Ferrari and Jarno Trulli working with Benetton, there is no obvious Italian rising star.
Vincenzo Sospiri is already 30 and is not available anyway as he has signed for the new Mastercard Lola team and there only a couple of drivers in Formula 3000 who might fit the bill, although neither Christian Pescatori nor Thomas Biagi has recorded any really dramatically good results. Another possible candidate might be the 1996 Italian F3 Champion Andrea Boldrini, although it is hard to imagine that Ferrari would consider using a driver with such limited experience.
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