DECEMBER 2, 1996

Nannini and Minardi

GIANCARLO MINARDI has finally announced the new structure of the Grand Prix team which bears his name, revealing that he now controls only 14.5% of the shares.

GIANCARLO MINARDI has finally announced the new structure of the Grand Prix team which bears his name, revealing that he now controls only 14.5% of the shares. Emilio Gnutti, Giuseppe Lucchini and Vittorio Palazzani - Minardi's partners since February 1994 when Minardi merged with Scuderia Italia - own 14.5% and another investor from that era Defendente Marniga retains one percent of the company.

The controlling interest in the team (70% of the shares) is now held by "a pool of international entrepreneurs" which includes Flavio Briatore, Gabriele Rumi and Sandro Nannini.

Rumi runs the Fondmetal wheel company which has been involved in F1 since the early 1980s - notably with Williams. In 1989 Fondmetal was the Osella team's title sponsor, and at the end of the year Rumi bought a controlling interest in the team. A year later Enzo Osella was ousted and the team changed its name to Fondmetal. It ran for two seasons before a lack of sponsorship forced Rumi to shut down operations. Wanting to remain involved in F1, he bought the bankrupt Govoni windtunnel and hired Jean-Claude Migeot to run it. Fondmetal Technologies has since been involved with Tyrrell and Benetton.

Nannini comes from a well-to-do baking family in Siena and drove for Minardi in Formula 2 between 1982-84 and in F1 in 1986-87. He then joined Benetton and raced for Briatore until his helicopter accident in 1990. He is also linked to the Scuderia Italia shareholders as he drove for them in the World Touring Car Championship in 1987.

Nannini has recovered well from the helicopter crash and despite his damaged right arm finished third in this year's International Touring Car series. Last week he did a considerable amount of testing in a specially-modified Benetton at Estoril, lapping remarkably quickly. Although officially he says that he does not think he has a future in F1 he has also been quoted as saying that now ITC has gone the only racing machinery which really excites him is F1. To be a Minardi driver next year would, however, be difficult as Sandro needs a specially-modified gearchange and powersteering and would have to find a way of being granted an FIA superlicence.

Minardi is expected to sign up Ukyo Katayama - who has salvaged his Mild Seven backing - and the team is expected to run a similar livery to Benetton. Likely drivers for the second Minardi seat are Giancarlo Fisichella and Tarso Marques - who are tipped to share the drive - although one can envisage that Nannini might do a few races. Such a move would certainly be an enormous publicity coup.

The team has concluded an engine supply deal with Brian Hart - and will run Brian's V8s next year. Minardi has also signed a two-year deal to use Bridgestone tires. The Minardi-Hart M197 is currently being built at Faenza under the guiding hand of Gabriele Tredozi. The technical team will be helped by input from Fondmetal's Migeot.

The new Minardi board of directors is made up of Giancarlo Minardi who takes on the roles of chairman and managing director; his brother Nando (who runs the Minardi family's IVECO truck concession in Faenza) who will act as an advisor and Rumi, who represents the new investors in his role as deputy chairman.

The only "international entrepreneurs" so far mentioned are Italian and there is considerable speculation that the only international involvement comes from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who is said to have become involved because he wants to make sure that the signatory teams to the new Concorde Agreement - Minardi is one of them - are all strong entities. The consortium behind Minardi appears to have paid off the team's old debts in exchange for shares, giving Giancarlo Minardi the chance to build a more competitive operation.