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Trulli goes from throttles to bottles

Italian F1 star still makes time for the good life

Before winning Monaco in 2004, few Italians knew who Jarno Trulli was.



Toyota Motor Corporation
Flavio Briatore

(CNN) -- The statistics for Jarno Trulli's career once read like a tale of almost-theres and not-quites, holding a title few would want as the longest-tenured driver in Formula One without victory.

It took the Italian Grand Prix driver close to 120 starts on the F1 circuit for him to finally taste success.

Trulli's profile got an enormous boost in May 2004 when he won the most prestigious race in his business, the Grand Prix of Monaco, while driving for Renault.

It was a year the F1 World Championship was largely monopolized by the seemingly unbeatable Michael Schumacher. But when the German Ferrari driver was knocked out of the race in a caution-period race, it was Trulli's chance to have some of his limelight.

His win stopped Schumacher from becoming the first driver ever to win six consecutive races

Despite his relatively low profile in F1, Trulli has been on the circuit for a decade and has been in motor racing for most of his life.

He said at the time of winning Monaco that it had lifted a great burden from his shoulders -- so great were the celebrations that he lost his voice for weeks afterwards. It was also the first time an Italian had won the race in 22 years.

Despite the win, relations with Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, who had helped Trulli get a start on the F1 circuit in the 1990s, soured. Trulli failed to score any more points for the team in the remainder of 2004.

In July that year he announced he would quit Renault. Two months later he signed a contract with Toyota, reportedly for half the amount that team-mate Ralf Schumacher was being paid.

In 2005, Toyota had its most successful season, with Trulli performing better than Schumacher for most of the year, giving the team its first podium finishes.

Until his win in Monaco two years ago and because of his Finnish name, Trulli's profile in Italy was low.

Labeled "emotional", "over-sensitive" and "publicity-shy", the 31-year-old says he prefers to live a quiet life, with his wife of two years Barbara and their one-year-old son, Enzo, named after Trulli's father. They are expecting another child in late 2006.

The family lives in St. Moritz in Switzerland but frequently makes trips to Jarno and Barbara's native Pescara, in the Abruzzi region on Italy's eastern coast, where their parents live.

Abruzzi is also home to the 40-hectare vineyard Trulli bought with his father in 2001, follow in the footsteps of his winemaker grandfather.

Located near Pescara, Trulli's father takes care of the vines while his son is on the track, but Trulli still makes time to fulfil his part-time job of vintner.

Still racing with Toyota alongside Schumacher, Trulli has had a slow start to the 2006 season. By the end of May, he had yet to pick up a point in the championship and there is talk he may not be re-signed by Toyota when his contract comes up for renewal at the end of the season.

While critics argue he is inconsistent and a better qualifier than racer, Trulli fans say that, like a good wine, he is getting better with age.

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