Gianmaria Bruni

Gianmaria Bruni was a highly acclaimed driver in the run up to his Formula 1 debut. He won the Formula Renault Campus title in 1998, moving to European Formula Renault where he came out on top in 1999. After two seasons in British Formula 3 he moved to Euro Formula 3000 where he was spotted by Gian Carlo Minardi, a man known for his ability to discover talented drivers. Though Bruni tested the Minardi car in 2003, he had serious issues to come up with a sufficient budget to fund his drive for a full season in F1. When joined the team he did so with a hotchpotch of backers which even included Italian pop singer Eros Ramazotti. Bruni joined the team at one of the least competitive stages in its history, with a car that had not seen significant upgrades for two seasons.

While the likes of Alonso, Webber and Wilson had been given the chance to shine, albeit at the end of the grid, the 2004 Minardi was so far off pace that even the next slowest car, the Jordan, was a second ahead at times. Bruni, however, did also not take this exceptional challenge well, often being demotivated, while his teammate Zsolt Baumgartner would soldier on with the weak material he had, scoring a point at Indianapolis. At the end of the 2004 season, Bruni made the rare decision of leaving Formula 1 and returning to GP2, the feeder series. “After my year in Formula One, some will question my decision, but I am a racing driver and I need to race," Bruni told reporters at the time. He won three races in two seasons in GP2 and later turned to closed wheel racing and the FIA GT Championship. Since then, he won Le Mans three times in the class for grand touring cars.