F1 Rejects Interview with

Andrea Montermini

F1 in 1996Italian GT in 2006CART in 1999Bathurst 24hrs in 2003

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Andrea Montermini Andrea Montermini has just about done it all - he's driven in almost every single-seater category from F3, F3000, CART, to F1, and even A1GP, and the same is true of his sportscar career. Le Mans, Grand Am, IMSA, Bathurst, FIA GT and Italian GT have all seen the likeable Italian ply his trade with plenty of success.

His time in F1 proved a frustrating one, though. Which is not surprising, otherwise he wouldn't be on this website! But no other driver can claim to have driven for each of the mid-90s reject team triumvirate - Simtek, Pacific and Forti Corse. For full details of Andrea's time in F1, and information on his career, please see our Andrea Montermini biography.

In 2005, Montermini was in Australia racing for Piercarlo Ghinzani's Team Italy in the A1GP round at Eastern Creek. Our UK Correspondent Stephen Slater arranged a meeting between F1 Rejects and Andrea, whom we warmly thank for giving up his time and good-naturedly answering the questions below...

• How did you get involved in motorsport?

It was actually something I always wanted to do, but my family did not agree at the beginning so I started quite late. And so I finally got the chance to be involved in doing something like Formula Alfa Boxer at the beginning. I won my first race and so I got the chance to be at the top straight away!
• How did you find your time in F3 and F3000?

Difficult! It was difficult in Italy, but very good for my formation. But I left Italy, or racing in Italy, quite soon because I thought that to be involved more in motorsport worldwide I had to move, like in F3000, to the UK. That's how I got more chances to develop myself and to learn quickly. As you know, I started quite late in my career.
• Do you have fond memories of Spa? We know you had a very good race there [in F3000], scoring a hat-trick of pole, the win and fastest lap. At a real driver's track, that must have meant something.

Yes exactly. In fact, I was really happy especially because during that week I left my old Italian team, where I had been [team-mates] with Rubens Barrichello, and I jumped to a new team on the Thursday basically...
• During your time in F3 and F3000, who did you consider the toughest rivals?

I have to be honest, in F3 and F3000 it was drivers like Damon Hill and Rubens Barrichello, then Luca Badoer, then David Coulthard - plenty of quite good drivers that I beat - I was vice-champion one year [2nd in the 1992 F3000 championship].

The hardest was Luca Badoer, because we fought until it was the last race of the season. But then I also started to learn that guys like David Coulthard and Damon Hill were very good at the beginning. Eddie Irvine also - my first year was with Eddie.
Montermini in F3000 during 1992.
• How did the opportunity to test the Dallara F1 car come about?

Yeah - they called me because I was quite a surprise in F3000 and I was doing very well, and they gave me the chance to test the Dallara at Monza, so I was quite happy. But obviously it was not much use doing so. I was much more comfortable a couple of months later when I got the chance to jump into a Ferrari...
• What was that like, to be able to test for Ferrari?

Ah! Especially for a guy who not only lived in Italy, but who lived ten kilometres from the Ferrari factory. I was born over there, I grew up over there. You can imagine me going to school, or not going to school but attached to the fence to watch Ferrari testing. And one day you get the chance to be on the other side of the fence. It meant something to me. Very exciting.
• And what about Benetton?

Yeah, Benetton ... I have to say that I had the chance to do many laps in F3000, and many laps in F1 with Ferrari, many kilometres. At Benetton, I didn't have that chance because there were three test drivers at the time when I was there with Michael Schumacher, and two of them were paying. And so it was tough to do a proper job.
• Now, it was very a difficult introduction to F1 racing when you joined Simtek. What was the atmosphere like when you joined the team?

The atmosphere was bad, because obviously [Roland] Ratzenberger had died a few weeks before. Then we had a chance to do one test the week before I was to race, but then there was the accident on the same day for Pedro Lamy, so there was no chance to jump in the car.
• And then you had your accident in practice at the [1994] Spanish GP...

What happened, basically it was something quite strange. I mean we know what happened, but I must tell you that the cars at that time, especially in that particular moment, were very, very, very difficult, very unpredictable, very tough.
Andrea tests for Ferrari at Imola in 1991.
• Speaking of unpredictable cars, you then went on to drive for Pacific and Forti. How were those cars?

I have to tell you that the Pacific Lotus wasn't that bad chassis-wise, but the problem is that the team hasn't got the money to develop it, and there was also no chance to develop the engine. Plus, in the second half of the [1995] season to the end of the year, the team lost a lot of money. But they couldn't stop going racing because the fine that Bernie Ecclestone was going to give them was bigger than the cost of going racing.

So what they planned to do was to do whole race weekends on engines with no miles on them. So basically every time we went to a circuit, for example on a Friday they were telling me, "OK, today you have three laps to do. Tomorrow you have two laps to do. And in the race you have 20 laps to do. And then you have to retire." You had to retire because there was no mileage on the engine!

But when they were telling me my laps for that day were two laps, it was not two flying laps, but it was one out lap, then in again! Kilometre-wise, one lap was the time that you went out of the pits and came back in again.
• And it wasn't much better at Forti?

No, it was worse! That's the problem ...
• But was the new Forti car actually not a bad car?

Nobody knows because by the time I got the car, it was already the time we had to stop on the circuit!
• Talking of atrocious cars, we read somewhere that you signed to be the Mastercard Lola test driver. Is that true?

Montermini in his Pacific at the Nurburgring in 1995.
• I can't imagine they did much testing! They only lasted one weekend in Melbourne ...

No - they only tested once. They called me to do it, and I said "OK." They said, "We have two paying drivers, we are keen to have you on board," and so on, because they knew me from F3000. But all of a sudden, everything disappeared.
• What was it like at Pacific being team-mate to Giovanni Lavaggi and Jean-Denis Deletraz?

There were many team-mate changes, but to be honest I was concentrating too much on what I was doing, so basically I had to be really, really focussed on my job.
• You had a couple of great results in CART, 4th in Detroit, 7th in Toronto [in 1993-94]. Was that something you wish you could have done more of? You went back in 1999...

Yeah. I went back in 1999 but unfortunately with Dan Gurney's team, which was at the end of his history as a team owner and a team manager and constructor. So this was quite tough. Especially because at that time there was this big fight with Firestone and Goodyear. And at that time, it was just that after 30 years of relationship between Dan Gurney and Goodyear, Goodyear [decided to stop] that year. They said after the season, "OK next year we will stop, so no more development on tyres," and by the end of that year, even Dan Gurney retired because he said, "I don't see a way to go racing without my major partner after 30 years."
• In sports cars, you seem to have gone from one series to another. Is that something you wanted to do, or would you prefer to stay in one series for longer?

No, I could have stayed somewhere, but I got the chance to drive the Ferrari 333SP [in IMSA in 1997], and it was very good because I got, like, four or five pole positions, eight or nine fastest laps, and many front row starts, and I was leading many times. But my team-mate was ... a good banker! So we won only three races. And I was quite happy. But then the year after I got the chance to do a contract and be in a good situation with Nissan and do a full Le Mans program, so for two years that was the main aim.
Andrea in action for Team Italy at Eastern Creek during the A1GP round there.
• Of all the co-drivers you had, who would you say was the best co-driver you had in sports cars?

For sure Jan Lammers and Erik Comas. We were a very good team trying to win Le Mans because we made a very nice ambience, and there was a very nice relationship between all of us doing our job, and that was very good.
• Now, you came to Australia in 2003 to race at Bathurst in the 24-hour [GT production car] race. Did you enjoy the track?

Yeah, that was good. Yeah, I really, really enjoyed the track and the Ferrari. And being here on that kind of circuit, which I think is one of the best circuits in the world, it was very nice.
• Would you say you prefer single seaters or sports cars?

Single seaters. No doubt. It's very good to be back here, to do a job here. It's very good. Yesterday [when Andrea drove in an A1GP practice session] for me was like ... [speechless]
• And finally, what would you say is the best and worst moments in your career?

The worst, obviously, was the accident [at Barcelona in 1994]. But I don't remember much of it. Best moment for sure was ... OK, there are actually two, but one was when I won at Spa [in F3000], and the second was when I did my first run with Ferrari in F1.
Click here to read Andrea's Full Biography on our site!

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