With two fourth places and a seventh spot in the constructors' cup, 1991 is the most successful season in the history of the Minardi team. Minardi had signed an engine deal with Ferrari which gave the team the necessary boost in terms of power and reliability to compete in the upper ranks of the field. The downside to this deal was, however, that it took up a large part of the team's budget, costing almost ten times more than the Cosworth engines.
In addition to the large amount of money paid for the engines, the contract with Ferrari also prevented Minardi from signing up any sponsors that would compete with Ferrari's backers, limiting the development budget of the car. Behind the wheel, Minardi all-time favourite Pierluigi Martini was joined by fellow Italian Gianni Morbidelli, who had also driven Minardi's second car for the final races of the 1990 season. The Ferrari power allowed Martini to battle it out with the big guys and his first 4th spot came at Minardi's home race at Imola. Martini came within a whisker of points in Canada when he came in seventh, a result repeated by Morbidelli at the following race in Mexico.
The best performance of the season came at the Portuguese Grand Prix, when Martini came in eighth in qualifying, only half a second behind the Ferrari works team, and took another fourth spot in the race. At the chequered flag, Martini was a mere 10 seconds behind Jean Alesi's Ferrari and ahead of the Benettons of Michael Schumacher and Nelson Piquet. A remarkable result, arguably Minardi's closest ever brush with a podium finish. Morbidelli in the second Minardi came in ninth.
Gianni Morbidelli left Minardi at the final race of the season, being replaced by Brazilian veteran Roberto Moreno, though he would be back in 1992. He raced for Ferrari, who had sacked champion Alain Prost, for one race, scoring a point for the prancing horses from Maranello. In spite of a successful season, Minardi was left with a hangover from the expensive engine bill.