Haas boss: Minardi-style teams needed for juniors

Speedcafe.com

Thursday 17th August, 2017 - 11:41am

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Webber takes the flag fifth in 2002

Mark Webber takes a Minardi to fifth in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix

Formula 1 needs more Minardi-like teams in order to provide development opportunities for up-and-coming drivers, says Haas team principal Gunther Steiner.

Minardi was a fixture in Formula 1 from 1985 to 2005, giving a number of young drivers their starts in the championship.

Mark Webber famously drove a Minardi to fifth on debut in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, while Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella, and Jarno Trulli also went through the Italian-based team.

With the departure of HRT, Caterham and Manor, which was responsible for giving Mercedes juniors Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon debuts last year, F1 is lacking a back-of-the-grid entry point like Minardi offered.

As a result, Ferrari is in talks to make Sauber its junior team to become a proving ground for its youngsters, including Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, to gather race experience in F1.

“The difficulty for young drivers is they need to be in the right time at the right place,” said Steiner.

“There is nothing else you can do for it, at the moment you cannot even buy a cockpit.

“When Minardi was around, Minardi was maybe happy to be last, that was their duty to bring drivers up.

“Maybe they were not happy to be last but they could live with it because that was their business model; to develop drivers, that’s a good business model.

“It’s like when (Daniel) Ricciardo drove the HRT (in 2011), you knew he was not going to do anything but it gave him experience and that’s not there anymore.

“It’s maybe a good thing we don’t have these teams (running at the back), (but) maybe it’s a bad thing too.”

Steiner says the big teams are reluctant to run young drivers without previous F1 experience, particularly given the big step between F2 and the new generation of F1 cars.

“I think they (Leclerc and Giovinazzi) are both good guys, with very good potential,” said Steiner.

“Between Ferrari and Mercedes, the next good guys will come out of one of them.

“(But) how they get into a seat is difficult, Formula 1 in that respect is very difficult.

“F2 to F1, it’s a different ball game, it’s such a big gap. You need a little bit of learning.

“To put Charles or Antonio straight away in a Ferrari, it’s a big risk.

“It can go well, but there are bigger chances it goes wrong, because the expectations are so high.

“The sport is so complex, you make mistakes when you’re young because you don’t have experience. You cannot buy experience; you need time.”