The financial situation had gotten so bad at the end of the 1996 season that the team changed hands again. This time a consortium consisting of Benetton supremo Flavio Briatore, former Minardi driver Alessandro Nannini and alloy-wheel tycoon Gabriele Rumi, who had already tried his luck in Formula 1 with his Fondmetal team, took over. Founder Gian Carlo Minardi still held a minority stake. The livery returned to Minardi's trusted dark blue, white and yellow, with additional colours of Japanese tobacco sponsor Mild Seven. The Japanese link was explained by veteran driver Ukyo Katayama joining the team in what would be his final season.
True to its tradition of launching the careers of new drivers Minardi also signed up Italian Jarno Trulli. Financial stability was there thanks to the team's new owners but with the weak Hart engine in the back of the car, it was no plain sailing for the team. With the exception of his Australian debut race, Trulli outqualified the much more experienced Katayama at every opportunity and took two ninth spots as the team's best result in 1997. This was sufficient to get himself noticed and Trulli was promoted to race for Prost after only seven races. Tarso Marques, who had already briefly joined the team in 1996 was called in to replace Trulli for the second half of the season.
As the season progressed, Briatore became keen to offload his stake in Minardi and there were rumours of British American Tobacco (which later bought Tyrrell and founded BAR) being interested. In the end, Briatore sold his stake to Gabriele Rumi, who would remain as the main shareholder of Minardi until 2001.