Ferrari will take Larini

FERRARI is now virtually certain to sign Nicola Larini as number two to Michael Schumacher next season. Larini has been the Ferrari test driver since 1992 and has twice stepped in to race for the team: after Ivan Capelli was dumped in 1992 and when Jean Alesi hurt his neck at the start of 1994. His best result was a second place at Imola in 1994 but that achievement was overshadowed by the death of Ayrton Senna that day.

Larini, who is 31, made his F1 debut at the Italian GP of 1987 at the wheel of a Coloni. He spent 1988 and 1989 driving for Osella and made a good enough impression to be hired by Ligier for 1990. He was dropped at the end of that year and joined Modena team for 1991. After this closed down he decided to accept an offer to test for Ferrari and race for Alfa Romeo in the German Touring Car Championship. Nicola was German Touring Car Champion in 1993.

Before Larini is confirmed, Ferrari is planning a four-driver test on Wednesday this week at Fiorano, Italy. Larini is due to set up a car tomorrow and this will then be tried by Gianni Morbidelli, Pierluigi Martini, Luca Badoer and the highly-rated 22-year-old Giancarlo Fisichella.

The test is not believed to be for the second Ferrari seat but rather to choose a test driver to work alongside Schumacher and Larini. Morbidelli has already been Ferrari's tester, while Martini is probably not interested in doing only testing. The likely choice for test driver is therefore Fisichella, who also has strong backing from Marlboro Italy.

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