Mazzacane: 'Starting 22nd... it's difficult to overtake'

GASTON MAZZACANE: Minardi-Fondmetal M02

Mazzacane: 'Starting 22nd... it's difficult to overtake'

No Points 8th, Nurburgring
20th, Imola
Running third at Indianapolis, ahead of Mika Hakkinen
Crashing in Monaco - his only race shunt of the year - and getting blamed for holding up the McLarens in Hungary and elsewhere
Expected to stay with Minardi, thanks to support from new owners PSN

Not a great deal was expected of Gaston Mazzacane when he was announced as Minardi's second driver earlier this year, and in truth he didn't do much to attract attention. Only three times did he manage to outqualify team mate Marc Gene, and for the most part he started 22nd and ran round at the back. However, the 25-year-old certainly wasn't disgraced, and showed a commendable ability to get his car to the flag. He hit the wall in Monaco and spun in France, but otherwise he was a solid performer, and made it to the end of tricky wet races at the Nurburgring, Montreal, Hockenheim and elsewhere. Highlight of his year was undoubtedly Indianapolis, where he stayed out on wet tyres and advanced briefly to third place while everybody else stopped. Alas his day ended ignominiously when he coasted to a halt with a blown engine - and a beer can was thrown from the stands and bounced off the front of the cockpit! The laid-back Mazzacane does not have a very high profile in the paddock, but when you do track him down he's an interesting and entertaining bloke. He understands and speaks English, but lacks confidence in his ability to get his points across in interviews, and will occasionally switch to Italian or Spanish and rely on a handy translator. Adam Cooper asked him about his season...

"I've finished a lot of races out of the 17. It's not bad. The experience here in Minardi is really important for my first year in F1. My future dream is to stay in Minardi, with another engine, and try to get a good result, in order to carry out the development we have already achieved this year. The chassis is good but we need more time in the wind tunnel, because the other teams have more hours. That is very important now in F1. But [technical director] Gustav Brunner is a good guy."

"I think at the moment I need to concentrate more on qualifying. That is very difficult in F1. The race is another story. But qualifying is very important, and it's the critical part for me. It's crucial to exploit the tyres 100% of the time, because the circuits are not all the same. It's difficult."

"I had a lot of fun because I felt I was in the race, not just the last one running after everybody! But I knew it was not real, because I had to change tyres. I decided to stay with the wets for as long as possible, because I felt I had an advantage. I didn't want to stop because the car was running well. As long as we were in the curves, where it was wet, there was no problem. In the fast part of the track it was tough. But what would have been more important was to have finished the race."

"For me the first time in Brazil was not bad. It was my second race in F1, and Brazil is a really difficult circuit, very physical. The other good races were Silverstone, Monza and Nurburgring. At Monza our car was not bad in the race, but starting in 21st or 22nd position it's difficult to overtake. We had a very good set-up for the race at Monza. It was very impressive for me because I did not expect to have such a beautiful car in the race there."

"In Austria I had a problem with my tyres, and I was not able to push harder. The first 33 to 34 laps in Austria were slower, not good. Afterwards it was OK, but it was too late. Unfortunately it always depends on some accident."

"For me, the most difficult thing in F1 was to find the limit of the car in a short time. I knew a lot of the circuits in Europe, and the circuits which I didn't know were Canada, Australia, Japan, Malaysia... so about 30% of the circuits I didn't know."

"If I was not enjoying my job I wouldn't be here..."

"He's a phenomenon... Pressures exist, but I think you need the right pressure within a team, and the rest is not important."

"The motivation is that when you get into the car, you are driving in F1. It's too difficult to explain. For sure I'm not competing to be the last. But nevertheless you're driving an F1 car and this opportunity is not granted to everybody."

"I think that in this sport critics are part of the game. What is important to say is that we are doing our race and they are doing another race. What I want to do is to lose the least time as possible when the others pass me... It's not on purpose that I'm an obstacle to them. Maybe next year the two Minardis will not be the last cars - maybe Ron Dennis' cars won't see any more Minardis on the back row."

"Yes. The problem for us is that we don't have an official manufacturer that supports us, which means that Minardi is a second behind the other teams."

"In Argentina there isn't a proper organisation to find an F1 driver and develop the career of an F1 driver. I'm very happy with Minardi and the other people. They trust me and they have a lot of confidence. So I really want to thank them because they allowed me to develop my career. In Argentina there exists a large audience of passionate people, but it's in terms of organisation that they lack."

"I expect to stay in Minardi. That is the optimum... at the moment I believe that the team is discussing a lot with regard to the future of the company, so the driver line-up will be a secondary question."

"Yes, until 1998 Giancarlo and I had the same manager. My chance to talk to the others drivers is when we have the briefing on Thursday. However I think generally all the drivers remain within their teams."

"I don't think I'm invisible! The problem is that all of the journalists are on the other side of the paddock. Probably they don't see me... I'm not shy. I enjoy talking to people. I can't speak English very well. I can't explain feelings - I prefer Italian, because it's more easy for me. I would like to say a lot of things! In 1998 I worked in the Astromega team in F3000, and the technical things and the car I can explain, no problem. It's just for interviews, for conversation."

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