Winning the Formula 3000 Championship as well as being a prestigious award for all work that lasted many years since the first few times I got my hands on the wheel, was also the point of arrival because it allowed me to drive a Formula 1 car for the Minardi Formula 1 team.
Team Minardi had offered an award test to the winners of the Formula 3000 Championships, Formula 3 and Formula Nissan from Spain; this brought us all together for a collective test that was held in mid-December 1999 at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain. I was there with the Swede Peter Sundberg, winner of the Italian F3 Championship and Fernando Alonso, winner of the Formula Nissan Championship.
I was looking forward to getting into the car, I was counting the days and I was anxiously waiting for the call from the Minardi team that would give me instructions about the date scheduled for the test and for the making of the driving seat.
I arrived in Jerez de la Frontera a day earlier, I wanted to take every opportunity to get to know the track and take advantage doing my usual circuit walk.
In the evening, I had a nice conversation with Cesare Fiorio, we talked a little about ourselves, he asked me questions about the racing experiences I had and he wished me good luck for the Test of the next day.
I woke up 2 hours before the alarm, I was nervous but focused, I had the track in my head and all the information provided to me by the engineers, I was ready!
In the collective test there were all the Formula 1 teams, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, BAR, Jordan, Benetton etc. and on the day of the test the weather conditions were very bad. The fact that I had never driven on that track, and not knowing the traps was amplified by the pouring rain, my first time at the wheel of the most important and sophisticated racing car in the world would turn out to be more complicated than expected.
I was the first of the 3 drivers to go on track and with the worst conditions.
We turn on the engine and my body started to vibrate incredibly, I was excited, focused and curious.
The mechanics pushed me out of the box, and I start to think about the things to do to start: I pulled the clutch lever behind the steering wheel with my left hand fingers, with my right hand fingers I insert the first gear and try to take a control over the engine revs, which, however, shot up even with a millimetric throttle movement!
Once the engine revs were under control, I gradually released the clutch to start, a delicate operation since it was the first time I had to release the clutch with my hand. So the car began to move and I headed towards the track.
I really wanted to hear the engine, to feel the sensations, understand how powerful it was, so as soon as I could I started pushing. I was flying!!! The car accelerated incredibly and at every gear change I laughed with happiness.
The acceleration was impressive, the car remained glued to the track despite the circuit was full of water, but the thing that impressed me most was the braking. If I was to make a ranking of the most incredible things in a Formula 1 I would definitely say braking. At the end of the straight we passed from almost 300 km/h to 80 km/h in less than 100 meters in the wet!!!
I did my job in the best way I could and also achieved a good lap time. For the seriousness, discipline and professionalism I had received praise by Giancarlo Minardi, Cesare Fiorio and Gabriele Rumi.
The positive outcome of the Test allowed me to become Test Driver for the Minardi F1 team together with Fernando Alonso for the year in 2000.
Once my role as test driver was announced first of all I carried out the hard work of physical and athletic preparation at the Clinic of Dr. Ceccarelli of Viareggio, and then I carried out tests on aerodynamics at Vairano and Mugello circuits for the team.
During the summer of 2000, I also had the chance to race in the United States at Elkhart Lake in a Grand Am Championship endurance race driving a Riley & Scott prototype powered by a 650bhp FORD 6-liter engine, unfortunately this race ended prematurely due to the distributor drive failing and the engine stopped running.
At the end of the season and when the contract with the Minardi F1 Team expired, my experience in F1 also ended because Minardi F1 changed ownership, and my aspirations and ambitions vanished.