JANUARY 25, 1999
Tuero quits, Gene for Minardi?
IN a move which is apparently unrelated to the problems of the Argentine Grand Prix, Esteban Tuero has announced that he is quitting Formula 1 immediately on "irrevocable personal grounds". The 20-year-old was under contract to Minardi until the end of the 2000 season but has decided to stop racing altogether.
Tuero struggled to get a superlicence at the start of last year but his first season in Formula 1 was no disgrace and on several occasions he was much more competitive than his more experienced team-mate Shinji Nakano. His eighth-placed finish at Imola was Minardi's best result for nearly two years. Despite this the youngster was not very popular with the Minardi crew because of a rather arrogant attitude.
At the last race of the year he collided with Tora Takagi's Tyrrell and suffered a back injury which meant that he had to rest throughout the winter. It may be that doctors have warned Tuero that other accidents could cause him more injury or he may simply have decided that he does not want to be a Grand Prix driver. Many of the men who have come into F1 in their teens have failed to live up to their potential, the most notable being New Zealander Mike Thackwell, who showed enormous talent in Formula 2 racing but decided that his real vocation was teaching.
Tuero's decision leaves Minardi without a confirmed driver although we would now expect Shinji Nakano to stay on. The latest rumors from Spain suggest that youngster Marc Gene will be the team's other driver. He impressed in testing at the start of December and it seems that he has access to considerable financial support in Spain. Others who may be considered are Tora Takagi, Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer and Frenchman Laurent Redon, who recently joined Benetton as a test driver but might reconsider now that a racing job is available. The other men to watch out for are Argentine Formula 3000 driver Gastone Mazzacane and Brazilian Tarso Marques.
Marques raced for Minardi in 1997 but last week signed a deal to race in Indycars with Payton-Coyne Racing.