NEWS FEATURE

Roberto Moreno is dumped by Benetton

The days before the Italian Grand Prix were traumatic for Roberto Moreno. Just two days before going to Monza he lost his drive. He ended up driving a Jordan. Roberto's sudden departure from Benetton was a big surprise - not least for the Brazilian himself. To most observers Roberto had done a good job at Benetton. He joined the team after Sandro Nannini's helicopter crash in October last year. He finished second, behind team mate Nelson Piquet in his first race for the team in Suzuka last year and was retained for this season. Up against the vastly experienced Piquet - with 200 GPs to his credit - Roberto had been doing well. The team, however, had informed Moreno after Belgium that it did not wish to take up his option for 1992. Until the Tuesday afternoon before Monza, however, Roberto thought his immediate future was secured.

'I think everyone in the paddock was surprised by the situation,' explains Moreno. 'Unluckily I was alone at the time, my wife and daughter are spending time in Brazil. I didn't even tell my wife because I thought it would hurt her too much. So it is very difficult for a person to go through all this alone - not knowing what to do.

'Fortunately I am a religious person I believe in God and I opened the Bible and asked God to put me in the right direction. I opened the Bible at a good page and it told me exactly what I should do. That gave me a lot of self-confidence and, luckily, I kept myself together. I knew that if I was to drive at Monza in any car I would have to be in 100% condition - which I was able to do.'

'It's been very stressful,' he continued. 'When I got the news it was only a couple of days before practice for the Grand Prix and that can hurt a driver in a big way.'

The news caused a furore within F1 circles. This was because the team issued no official explanation as to why Moreno had been fired. It was a public relations disaster for at Monza everyone involved seemed to have a different story to tell.

There were suggestions from team members that Roberto had not been fit enough to race.

'I think I did a good job,' said Roberto, 'The team improved a lot through the year and the results were starting to show up. Mine has not been a very long F1 career. I have only done 10% of what Nelson has done. It was really experience that I needed and it was starting to come.

'The only problem that I had was that I caught a virus before the race in Magny-Cours in July. I went to the doctor and took penicillin. That upset my stomach and during the race I was still not recovered from the bug. That's the only problem I believe I had this year. I don't think the result of the race would have changed dramatically because we were not in good shape at that race.

'Besides, I believe any human being can catch a bug somewhere in the course of a year.'

Roberto decided to take immediate legal action against the Benetton team for breach of contract.

'I was not really angry with anyone,' he explained, 'I just wanted to defend myself, defend my rights on the contract I had for this year.

'After they decided to drop me I simply didn't want to drive for the team any more. I just wanted to get what I deserved.

'I have no regrets about my time at Benetton. I am just trying to forget the bad side. I only look at the positive side of things so I had to look ahead to new doors.'

When he arrived at Monza negotiations were taking place all over the paddock, with lawyers scurrying to and fro, trying to sort out the resulting legal mess. When the deadline for driver nominations passed at six o'clock on Friday neither Benetton nor Jordan knew who would be driving for them for the weekend.

'On Thursday night,' said Roberto, 'I slept only two hours. Without going into details, I must say that Eddie Jordan was very understanding of my situation. He gave me the car which Michael Schumacher would have driven, but it happened very, very late at night.'

It was, in effect, a swap between Benetton and Jordan. Benetton took Schumacher and Jordan picked up Moreno.

'I had a seat fitting at seven o'clock on Friday morning,' explained Roberto, 'then I just had to get into the car and drive it. I concentrated and tried to do my best. Luckily the team works very well. I had people who were pushing forward for me, cheering for me. I felt really at home and that gave me a lot of enthusiasm.'

It was a bitter irony that on Friday Moreno and Schumacher qualified in exactly the same posiions as they had at Spa: Schumacher was seventh and Moreno eighth. They had merely switched cars.

Switching to Jordan gave Roberto the chance to renew an association with Jordan's designer Gary Anderson, who had engineered him to success in the Formula 3000 championship of 1988.

'The competitiveness of Gary's Jordan did not surprise me this year,' said Roberto. 'I knew his talents. I knew what he could do and he came up with it. I was expecting it to be successful. It was fantastic to see Gary succeed after all the bad times he has been through in his career.

'When we were in F3000 a lot of people didn't know if it was Gary or me. Now Gary has had his chance to prove he is very good at designing a car which he hadn't done at that time because he was just engineering one. The important thing was that we understood each other so well. Gary is a a racer. He doesn't waste money and he comes up with the goods.'

In qualifying at Monza so did Moreno. By Saturday night he was ninth on the grid. But the race was not a success.

'I lost revs at the start,' he explained, 'and I dropped back a bit. After the warm-up we changed to different front brake discs and I had to play with the brake balance as they were settling down. Suddenly on lap 3 the rear brakes suddenly blocked. The car changed ends and I lost it.'

It was a disappointing end to a difficult week.

'I must say that although things might have been stressful and tiring, I was very happy to be driving a Jordan,' he said. 'I really hope that I can stay with the team for the rest of the year. Whatever the case I am going to continue to look forwards and try to achieve a drive for the rest of the season.

'You know,' he added, 'I believe in life there are ups and there are downs. It's like a big wave. I believe if you jump in a swimming pool and you got to the bottom the only way out is up. That has happened to me all through my career. Right now I am just starting to jump up again.

'What matters is to be positive and keep myself moving forward. I think at Monza I had what I deserved.

'A drive in F1...'

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