Gianni Morbidelli

2021-02-20 23:00

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Gianni Morbidelli

Gianni Morbidelli was born in Pesaro on January 13, 1968. He is considered by all the insiders to be an excellent test driver, and one of the brightes


Gianni Morbidelli was born in Pesaro on January 13, 1968. He is considered by all the insiders to be an excellent test driver, and one of the brightest promises of Italian motoring between the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. After flattering results in the world of karting, Gianni made his debut in Italian Formula 3 in 1987 with Giancarlo Pavanello's Euroracing team, and in his first year in the category he closed the championship in sixth place overall, but won the award for best rookie of the season.


The following year he moved to the Forti, where he obtained a victory and fifth place in the final standings. In 1989, again with the Piedmontese team, Morbidelli achieved the title of Italian champion by winning seven races out of twelve, with four pole positions and three fastest laps. This enviable roadmap earns him the attention of the top Formula 1 teams, but Ferrari is the quickest to secure the young talent from Pesaro. In 1990 the Piedmontese team decides to make the leap to the category by moving to Formula 3000, but Morbidelli's season is fluctuating, thanks to an engine not quite up to the situation. Gianni still manages to get a victory and a fifth-place finish.


At the same time he made his debut in Formula 1 at the wheel of the Scuderia Italia at the United States Grand Prix, in Phoenix, missing the qualification, and with the latter he will also race in Brazil, managing to qualify for the race with the sixteenth time in practice, while in the race he ends in fourteenth place. After finishing the Formula 3000 championship, Giancarlo Minardi offers him the opportunity to race the last two races of the season with one of his single-seaters; Morbidelli accepts the offer, but the results will not be satisfactory due to two retirements.


Nevertheless, he manages to convince the manager from Romagna to confirm him also for the following season, which will be his first complete in the top category. The man from Pesaro stands out in various races, obtaining a seventh place in Mexico as his best result. But it is in France that he will give his best, since after an extraordinary qualifying ended with the tenth time, despite being feverish, he is very fast in the race and keeps the same pace as the Benettons of Piquet and Moreno, until the touch at the Adelaide hairpin at the eighth lap with the three-time World Champion that forces him to retire.


Being also a Ferrari test driver, Morbidelli will have his great chance to drive the Maranello car in the last race in Adelaide, where he will replace Alain Prost. The race is conditioned by bad weather, therefore it will be interrupted after only fourteen laps: with the score it was halved, it only gets half a point thanks to the sixth final place.


The following year Morbidelli stays at Minardi, not getting any world points. But for best results he gets a seventh place in Brazil, and an eighth in the flood of Magny-Cours, France. Despite the excellent results, Gianni does not get reconfirmation from Minardi, and Formula 1 seems to be closed. But after a year spent with Alfa Romeo in the Italian Touring Championship, Morbidelli returned to Formula 1 in 1994 with Footwork, finding as his teammate Christian Fittipaldi, who he had already had alongside him in Minardi in 1992.


Gianni signs the contract with the English team just a few days before the start of the world championship, and in Brazil he gets a fantastic sixth position in qualifying, only to be betrayed by the gearbox after only five laps. The season is complicated, given the lack of competitiveness of the car, but the rider from Pesaro still manages to get three championship points, the result of fifth place in Hockhenheim and sixth in Belgium.


Thanks to these excellent results, Morbidelli obtains reconfirmation also for the following season: in 1995 he runs again with Arrows, with whom he disputes the first part of the season before being fired for lack of money from the team, and being replaced by Max Papis. Back for the last races of the season, Gianni gets his only podium in the last race in Adelaide, thanks to an excellent third place.


A placement due not only to his shrewd race strategy but also to the numerous retirements. For 1996 Morbidelli will not be a titular driver, but a Jordan test driver and at the same time he will drive a BMW in the Italian Touring Championship. At the beginning of 1997 Gianni returned to Ferrari as a test driver but, on the occasion of the Spanish Grand Prix, he returned to Formula 1 driving for Sauber, after being called to replace Nicola Larini recently on foot by the Swiss team. His return will be marked by a serious accident which occurred in a test session at the Magny-Cours circuit. Gianni is lucky to come out unscathed, but he will have to miss three races because of arm fracture.


Morbidelli returns to Hungary and remains in Sauber until the Japan race, which was raced in Suzuka, but his last experience in Formula 1 ends without points. The fever of the engines is inevitably alive in the heart of the Pesaro area, so much so that he is dedicated to touring cars. In 1998 he flew to Great Britain to compete in the local Super Turismo championship with the Volvo S40, finishing eleventh in the final standings. Then, in 2000 he competed with BMW in the ETCC championship, finishing third. In 2002 he runs four races of the ETCC championship, one race of the ALMS championship, and four races of the European Super Diesel Challenge championship.


In 2003 he competes in the Endurance Touring Championship, and the following year he accepts the Seat court to take part in the European Touring Championship, although the experience will last only a few races. But the most important successes of the second phase of Morbidelli's career are the three Italian SuperStars championships, which he wins at the wheel of the Audi Rs4 and BMW M3, and the Speedcar series which he wins in 2009, ahead of Johnny Herbert. Just to show that touring cars are now an integral part of his second life, in 2014 Gianni competed in the world championship with the Chevrolet Cruze, finishing ninth in the World Championship. The great regret of the Pesaro's career is that of having always been a fast driver, but of not having been able to demonstrate this talent only in flashes in the top motoring category. If he had been helped by means up to the occasion, surely his career would have had a different development.


Simone Centonze



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