The other man from Ticino
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W March 1999 issue
Osella-Alfa Romeo FA1G
1987 Italian GP
Franco Forini was in and out of F1 before we noticed. So, one of those pay drivers again? Well, the Swiss made up the numbers in his three GP appearances but he did have the 1985 Italian F3 title to show for.
Forini's brief venture into F1 came in the No.22 Osella that in 1987 was fielded on just four occasions. With Osella concentrating on Alex Caffi, the Landis & Gyr-backed tailender decided to enter a second car in GPs close to its home base. So, in the second race of the season, a one-off was arranged for Gabriele Tarquini, making his F1 debut from last place on the grid. All through spring and summer the team then reverted to its one-car effort before springing a surprise at Monza by entering the No.22 car again for Forini (here seen taking the Parabolica with team mate Caffi). The two took the last row on the grid and both retired with a broken turbo. The second car making the trip to the Iberian races as well, Forini equalled his last position on the grid at Estoril, Franco's suspension collapsing after 32 laps. In Spain, Forini's GP meeting was cut short when he failed to qualify, and with the F1 circus traveling overseas for the final three GPs Osella's tiny budget put paid to any further ambitions Franco might have had.
After his three unthankful appearances for Osella, the Ticino resident completely vanished from the international scene, his prestigious F3 title not getting him anywhere.
Still, just because Senna, Schumacher and Häkkinen took F3 championships by storm, F3 titles are by no means a guarantee for success in the sport's top category. If they were, then where today are Brits Kelvin Burt, Oliver Gavin or Jonny Kane, Frenchmen Didier Cottaz, Jean-Philippe Belloc or Patrice Gay, Italians Giambattista Busi, Luca Rangoni or Andrea Boldrini?
The only national F3 series of which all champions of the nineties are still active in the international racing scene is the German championship: Michael Schumacher (multiple World Champion), Tom Kristensen (sportscar great), Pedro Lamy (GT racer), Jos Verstappen (F1 driver), Jörg Müller (BMW GT and touring car driver), Norberto Fontana (sometime F3000 driver), Jarno Trulli (F1 driver), Nick Heidfeld (1999 F3000 champion, F1 driver) and Bas Leinders (KTR F3000 driver). So where's this idea the British series is still strongest?
The funny thing is all foreign British F3 champions have succeeded in breaking though to the top level, Häkkinen the new World Champ, Barrichello an F1 veteran, De Ferran an double CART champion, Magnussen a Stewart refugee and now with Panoz in the ALMS, with Mario Haberfeld an F3000 regular. Taking care of its own talent still seems too tough a job for motor racing's No.1 country, Hill, Coulthard and Irvine all reaching F1 by taking several detours and certainly not by virtue of a planned talent scheme. Having said that, with drivers like Dario Franchitti or Jenson Button taking fate into their own hands, you don't really need a programme...