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Fittipaldi's somersault at Monza



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Christian Fittipaldi, Pierluigi Martini


Minardi-Ford M193




1993 Italian GP


A sight to never forget, Christian Fittipaldi's straight-line somersault, ejected by team mate Martini's rear wheels, was a piece of acrobatics the Russian State Circus would have been proud to incorporate in its evening show.

Together with Pierluigi Martini's front row grid position in the 1990 US GP at Phoenix this was the only headline the Minardi team made in its entire history in the F1 World Championship. To underline its status as a happy back-of-grid team, in the unenviable top three teams participating endlessly without a win, Minardi is sandwiched by Arrows and Scuderia Centro Sud. But where Arrows and Centro Sud managed podium finishes - Arrows even coming tantalisingly close with two last-lap dramas robbing Riccardo Patrese and Damon Hill of sure victory - Minardi cars never finished higher than fourth, Christian Fittipaldi and Pierluigi Martini gifting the little Faenza squad 8 constructor points in 1993: its best result in 16 years of trying.

And where Arrows has been subject of several takeovers, today's TWR operation having no link whatsoever with the original founding fathers, Giancarlo Minardi has been involved in the team as its managing director until the end of 2000, notwithstanding the fact that outsiders such as Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi owned a majority share in Minardi Team S.p.A. before the final takeover by European Aviation magnate Paul Stoddart.

Minardi can also be proud to have launched the careers of Giancarlo Fisichella, Christian - son of Wilson - Fittipaldi and, recently, Fernando Alonso. Since 1993, the team hasn't sprung any major surprises, the days of Pierluigi Martini's nimble M189 and M190 upstaging the big-time constructors well and truly over. Although Stoddart has managed to attract top people and a bigger South East Asian budget to the team, Minardi isn't critisized by the opposition or the press for holding on to its perennial underdog status. Why would they? Australian-owned or not, Minardi still has the best cappuccino in the paddock.

Reader's Why by Geza Sury

What a fearsome sight it was! The Minardi ploughing through the air, somersaulting, than landing on four wheels. That was what happened to Christian Fittipaldi at Monza, in 1993. "I kept my eyes open, because I thought if I closed them, I could never open them again!" was the Brazilian's comment. He was extremely lucky.

The accident (reminiscent of Riccardo Patrese's affair with Gerhard Berger the previous year) happened on the very last lap of the race, when Christian tried to pass his team mate. Maybe the 1993 season was Christianís best in Formula 1. He debuted in 1992 after becoming the youngest ever F3000 Champion. But his season with Minardi turned to be a nightmare. The car was heavy, the Lamborghini engine was underpowered, and the team underfinanced. Christian (nephew of two-time World Champion Emerson) injured his neck in France and missed a couple of races. He returned too early, as it later turned out, and had problems even making the grid. But a good, steady drive earned him a point in Suzuka.

Things got better in 1993. The team developed a brand new car, fitted with a small, neat Ford engine. Christian drove well at the season opener in Kyalami and scored a fine fourth place, although only 5 cars were running when the chequered flag fell! He did even better in Monaco, finishing in fifth spot this time, hotly pursued by Martin Brundle in his powerful Renault-engined Ligier in the closing laps. But after that brilliant drive, the young Brazilian's performance faded. The next year he drove for Arrows, and did really well at the first races, but then the rule changes came and the team couldn't adapt their cars to them.

After all Christian left Formula One for IndyCars, and still races on the American continent. His team mate Michael Andretti won a lot of races, but so far Christian hasn't impressed as many people as he did in the lower categories.