Pierluigi's uncle was Giancarlo Martini, whose greatest claim to Formula 1 fame was that he managed to crash a borrowed Ferrari 312T on the warm-up lap for the 1976 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Pint-sized and curley-haired, "Piero" would make rather more Formula 1 progress than his uncle, his path to the sport's senior category assisted by his winning the 1983 European Formula 3 title in a Ralt-Alfa Romeo. He failed to qualify a Toleman in the 1984 Italian Grand Prix, but In 1985 he began Formula 1 in earnest with the Motori Moderni V6-engined Minardi. However, he was hopelessly inexperienced and dropped back into Formula 3000 for the next two-and-a-half seasons. He was then invited back into the Minardi team in time to score the marque's first Championship point with a sixth place at Detroit in 1988. In 1991 he achieved his best results, finishing fourth in the 1991 San Marino and Portuguese GPs.