MAY 19, 1997
Trulli tries a Benetton
JARNO TRULLI's day of running with Benetton last week in Barcelona was interesting in that the team's official reason for using the Minardi driver - filming - was clearly not the real reason for the test. Such tests are rare and teams often use them to try out young drivers they do not know. Trulli tested for Benetton last year and was sufficiently impressive for Flavio Briatore to find him a place with Minardi this year. Speculation in the paddock has long suggested that Trulli will move to Benetton next year.
So why was he testing in Barcelona? The only logical conclusion is that the team is trying to motivate its regular drivers Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger to produce better results. The last three races have been a total disaster for the Enstone team - which expected to be battling for the World Championship this year but is currently having trouble qualifying a car in the top 10.
Despite denials from Flavio Briatore, the team is in financial difficulties as a result of the poor results in the last 18 months and the reason that the team cannot confirm its engine supplier for next year is simply because Briatore is still 30% short of the money he needs to pay for the Mecachrome V10 engines. The Benetton Family is refusing to invest more money but is demanding better results - with the threat of sale hanging over the operation if things do not improve.
The technical team seems to be confused and the drivers despondent and perhaps Briatore is considering putting Trulli into one of the cars later in the year in an effort to inject some enthusiasm into the team - in an effort to recreate what happened when Michael Schumacher joined Benetton in 1991.
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