My only Grand Prix

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1993 Italian at Monza by Marco Apicella

You were racing in Japanese F3000 in 1993. How did you end up replacing Thierry Boutsen at Jordan?

I was in Japan and Eddie Jordan called me and asked if I wanted to race at Monza. He told me what he wanted, and we did a deal in a few minutes. Of course, it was a good opportunity, so I took it. It wasn’t so much, something like £20,000. I found a sponsor.

By then you’d done seven years of F3000, but had you driven other Fl cars?

I’d tested for Minardi and Modena Lamborghini. They were not very competitive cars.

Did you test the Jordan beforehand?

I tested at Imola the week before, for a couple of hours. I couldn’t get a good feeling with the car. It was set up for Monza, aerodynamics and everything. In Japan, we had quite a high level of grip at that time, but in Fl the tyres were quite a hard compound. That was a big difficulty for me.

Was It exciting going to your home race?

It was the opposite: I was under a lot of pressure because I knew there was only one chance and I didn’t feel comfortable in the car. But Eddie was fantastic and everybody in the team was friendly. Unfortunately, the Jordan wasn’t performing well at high-speed circuits. Even Rubens Barrichello was slow with it. I wasn’t confident, especially on the brakes and, at Monza, if you’re not confident on the brakes, your lap time suffers.

You went off in first qualifying. What happened?

The circuit was a little bit damp when I had my first run. The team had sent me out first, I suppose because I was a new driver to Formula One and they were afraid that I would be in the middle of other drivers on their qualifying laps. On the first corner at the Lesmos there was a little river running across the track… I was pushing really hard, so I just lost the car. It was not so good.

You qualified 23rd. What went wrong at the start?

I really don’t remember. I think Michele Alboreto moved over on me, I’m not sure. It wasn’t his fault, but somebody hit me and broke the steering arm. It was even before the first corner, still on the straight I parked the car and I went home! I think 10 cars were involved.

How frustrating was it?

I was thinking, ‘That’s it!’ For sure, it wasn’t a good performance. But I don’t think frustrating is the right word, I don’t feel like that I know I’m a good driver, and I did everything I could to get into Fl. But it just didn’t happen. I don’t blame myself, but nor do I blame anyone else. It’s just life.

What did you think when Eddie Irvine finished sixth in ‘your’ car at Suzuka two races later?

I was hoping that would happen to me! But what a difference something can make to your life, some small thing, like some luck or some technical thing. On the other hand, I wasn’t jealous I was very happy for Eddie. But if I knew then what I know now… Jordan only asked me for Monza, but Suzuka would have been much better for me.