Debut & Minardi (1997)
Jarno Trulli made his debut appearance in F1 back in 1997 driving for Minardi team. He impressed immediately and after only 7 races he moved to the Prost team to replace the injured Oliver Panis. He finished a fine 4th at the 1997 German GP and briefly led the Austrian GP.
Trulli remained with the Prost team for 1998 & 1999, scoring his maiden podium finish at the 1999 European GP. However Trulli quickly realised that Prost were on a down turn of form and if he was to get better results he would have to look else where for a drive. Thus in 2000 Trulli moved to drive for Jordan, partnering Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Although Trulli never scored a podium for Jordan, he did begin to build a reputation as one of the best qualifiers the sport has seen. Yet with Renaults acquisition of the Benetton team and Flavio Briatore being Trulli’s long serving manager, the Italian was able to secure a long term contract drive for the French based team.
2002 saw Trulli partner Jenson Button and despite his superior qualifying form, it was Button who collected more points over the course of the season. Yet it was the Italian who remained at Renault for 2003 partnering promoted test driver Fernando Alonso.
Trulli started 2003 strong with a front row start in Malaysia, however it was his team mate Alonso who had a better one, collecting 3 podium finishes in the first 5 races. Trulli managed to get his own podium finish at the 2003 German GP, but ended the season over 20 points behind Alonso.
2004 saw Trulli remain with Renault again partnering Alonso, but this time it was the Italian who had the better start to the season, collecting points at each of the first 7 races. Trulli also managed to collect his maiden Pole Position and maiden F1 victory in stunning fashion at the 2004 Monaco GP.
However the Italian’s good form and desire to stick with the team into 2005 quickly soured. His relationship with Manager and team boss Flavio Briatore quickly deteriorated and after a disastrous performance at the Belgium GP where Trulli took Pole but slipped to 9th, his relationship with the team was beyond repair and after the Italian GP, he was sacked from the team.
This was not the end of Trulli though, he returned to the grid at the Chinese GP, but this time he was driving for Toyota replacing Ricardo Zonta for the final 2 races of the 2004 season. For 2005 Trulli would race full time at Toyota alongside Ralf Schumacher.
His first full year with Toyota started well, strong podium results in Malaysia, Bahrain & Spain put Trulli second in the championship overall. He outperformed his higher paid German team mate and even took the team’s maiden Pole Position at the controversial 2005 United States GP. However, yet again a dip in form late on in the season saw the Italian slip to 7th in the Driver’s Title race overall.
Trulli had a shocking start to the 2006 season with no points to show from the first 8 races. His best result all season was a 4th place finish at the United States GP. A lack of pace and reliability from the Toyota did not help, but the Italian was outperformed by his team mate Ralf Schumacher, who claimed the teams only podium of the season in Australia. 2007 was no better and again the team and Trulli were relegated to the back of the field, only occasionally coming through to score the odd point or two.
Trulli was partnered at Toyota by Timo Glock for 2008. The Italian started well and had a string of 3 points paying results, but it was not the results he was hoping for. He did manage to secure a podium position at the French GP. Yet again it became a mediocre season for Trulli and the team.
Trulli began 2009 strongly and took 2 podiums at the opening round in Australia and again in Bahrain. He also took Toyota’s Pole Position at the Bahrain GP, ahead of team mate Timo Glock. However a rather inconsistent middle part to the season saw him drop down the order. He did manage a strong 2nd place podium at the Japanese GP after battling with Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.
Jarno developed a rather amusing spat with Adrian Sutil after colliding with the German in the Brazilian GP. The Italian was furious and blamed Sutil for forcing him off track and into a crash. However after a bit of an amusing press conference battle between the two, nothing further was said. Trulli finished the season 8th with 32.5 points, collecting his half point for finishing 4th in that years Malaysian GP which was cut short.
With Toyota announcing their departure from F1 at the end of the 2009 season, the Italian veteran was left without a seat going into 2010.
Many believed that Trulli was at the end of his career. However with several new teams joining F1 in 2010, Jarno was given another race seat, this time with Lotus partnering McLaren exile Heikki Kovalainen.