1993 BERGISCHER LÖWE
Nicola Larini, posing with my son Mathias
It is hard to know quite why Nicola Larini's F1 career fell apart in the early Nineties, though the man himself blamed his own belief in the promises heaped upon him by the nascent and short-lived Lambo Modena team.
He had fought his way up through karting to Formula Fiat Abarth by 1984, before going the time-honored route of Italian F3. The following year he won races, and in 1986 took the championship from his more fancied teammate, Marco Apicella. That launched him into F1 with Enzo Coloni's little team at the Italian GP in 1987, where he failed to qualify. He did get in in Jerez, however, before retiring with a suspension problem.
It was with the little Osella Equipe in 1988 and 89 that he really impressed, running as high as third in the rainy Canadian GP in the latter year before his car quit. That led to a disappointing year with Ligier in 1990, before the slide into the Lambo Modena team in 1991. When that collapsed in 1991 his only salvation was to become Ferrari test driver, taking over from Gianni Morbidelli. He kept his hand in racing Alfa Romeo touring cars with great success, did two GPs for Ferrari in 1992 when Ivan Capelli was sacked, then stood in twice for the injured Jean Alesi in 1994. In his first race he was pushed into Ayrton Senna at the start; his second was the fateful San Marino GP, where he finished second to Michael Schumacher. It would be his best-ever F1 result.
When Peter Sauber's team signed to use Ferrari-derived powerplants for 1997 he gained fresh impetus, but despite finishing sixth on his comeback in Australia it was a disappointing partnership that lasted only five races. Unhappy with the whole thing, Larini was almost relieved to return to Italy's Super Touring Championship with Alfa.He remained a star of touring car racing throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, finally leaving Alfa to join Chevrolet in the new World Touring Car series in 2005.
From left to right: NICOLA LARINI, GIANNI GIUDICI, CHRISTIAN DANNER, ALLESANDRO NANNINI and GIORGIO PIANTA.