Luis Perez-Sala
by Simon Vigar

Formula 1 has a curious, unrequited relationship with Spain and Luis Perez-Sala could not bring much Formula 1 glory to his country or Minardi in the late eighties. The much awaited success only came much later in the form of Minardi graduate Fernando Alonso. Luis won races in F3000 at Birmingham and Enna and was championship runner up to Stefano Modena in 1987. The following year, he formed an all-Spanish line-up at Minardi with Adrian Campos. Despite outdoing his compatriot, his F1 debut season was a disappointment. Campos was dropped midway through 1988 for the return of Minardi's prodigal son Pierluigi Martini, who promptly blew Luis away. Piero scored the team's first ever point in Detroit proving the Cosworth-powered M188 was a decent car.

Both Perez-Sala and Martini were retained for 1989 and Giancarlo Minardi pulled-off a coup by ensuring his team was the focus for Pirelli. The sticky tyres may not have been great for racing but for qualifying they were fantastic. In the purgatorial times of pre-qualifying this was vital. Martini qualified on the second row at Jerez and Adelaide. He also finished fifth with Perez-Sala in sixth at Silverstone, the Spaniard's solitary point in F1. The Silverstone points ensured Minardi didn't have to take part in anymore highly pressurised pre-qualifying sessions. Money was tight (again) and the heir to an Italian pasta dynasty, Paolo Barilla, took Perez-Sala's seat for 1990.

He then competed for Nissan in the Spanish Touring Car Championship alongside fellow F1 refugee Ivan Capelli and Jordi Gene, big brother of future Minardi star Marc. He won the title in 1993 beating his old colleague Adrian Campos. Later he drove a Chrysler Viper in the FIA GT Championship. Campos and Perez-Sala provide a Spanish bookend for the Minardi adventure. At the other end of the nineties we have Gene and Alonso. Let's hope Fernando can succeed where the others have failed by really popularising F1 in their homeland.