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Following Bianchi and Leclerc: Mini has ‘full trust’ in manager Todt

With only six races left, the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) title battle is heating up. Currently sitting second in the standings, ART GP driver Gabriele Minì is one of the drivers in contention to claim the FRECA title like his former teammate Grégoire Saucy did in 2021. F1 Feeder Series talked with the Italian driver before the next round at the Red Bull Ring.

By Perceval Wolff

The 2020 Italian F4 champion has always been one of the brightest feeder series stars since he joined single-seaters. After finishing his rookie FRECA season in seventh (second among rookies), Minì has progressed considerably compared to last year, allowing him to fight for the title out of over 30 drivers.

A title contender

“I improved a lot, especially on the racecraft. We’ve been pretty consistent overall, always in the top 3 or at least top 5 at every qualifying session or every race, always fighting for a podium spot. But I’m a perfectionist, I can’t be totally satisfied of course, I have done some little mistakes that proved to be costly” said Minì, alluding to the small contact with Beganovic in the opening laps of the season at Monza and the false start in the second round at Imola.

We’ve been pretty consistent overall, always in the top 3 or at least top 5 at every qualifying session or every race

Gabriele Minì

When asked about the main point he should focus on to progress, the ART driver believes “everything can always be improved. I always have to work hard to make sure I constantly improve, in qualification and in [races]. I have done some mistakes at the start of the year that I’m not doing any longer, it’s a good thing.”

Leader of his team

After a learning year alongside Grégoire Saucy, Minì has now become the natural leader of his team given his experience with ART and with the car. “Last year, the big guy was Grégoire. He was the leader and he was very experienced, and I learnt a lot from him. This year, it is my role to push the team to do better, and they do the same with me.”

For the most recent round at Spa-Francorchamps, Minì gained his second rookie teammate, Esteban Masson, joining the team alongisde fellow rookie Laurens van Heopen. As the new team leader and with two rookie teammates, we asked Minì about his approach on sharing information and advice.

“Of course, I don’t fully help my teammates because on track we are rivals, but for sure, I sometimes give them suggestions. And anyway, driving-wise they can already see my data so that everybody in the team can improve and go forward.”

3 tracks, 1 goal

With Spielberg, Barcelona and Mugello left, all the FRECA drivers are now approaching the final sprint of the year. With a 41-point gap to leader Dino Beganovic, Minì knows “everything is possible. Just before Spa, we had 9 points of difference. Everything can change very quickly in only one single weekend. In Hungary, I gained 30 points on him, for example. In my opinion, it’s not over until it’s really over.”

Last season, Minì stepped on the podium at Barcelona but scored only two points between both weekends at the Red Bull Ring and Mugello. The 17 year old driver believes that he and his team can turn the situation around this year. 

I have full confidence in my team and I believe we can find the solution to perform on every track

Gabriele Minì

“Compared to last year, many things have changed. If you look at 2021, we were very fast in Paul-Ricard and Zandvoort, while this year we were also very strong but not as strong as last year. And at Imola, last season we were not the best, while this year I believe we were the strongest. I have full confidence in my team and I believe we can find the solution to perform on every track.”

The next Italian F1 driver?

Despite its strong history in F1, Italy doesn’t have any drivers at the pinnacle of motorsport anymore, but Minì stays hermetic to the pressure of potentially being the next Italian on the grid. “Of course, I know Italy would want another driver in F1 but my mentality is that if I do something, I do it mainly for me. That’s me who wants to perform, I don’t do that for the others. I don’t get extra pressure from outside and from my country like this.”

As the Italian driver is getting closer and closer to F1, Minì is still not part of an F1 Junior Team, unlike Dino Beganovic at Ferrari, Paul Aron at Mercedes, or even Hadrien David who is an Alpine Affiliate Driver. “I have my management in the hands of Nicolas Todt, so I’m not alone. After seeing what he did with Jules [Bianchi], or Charles [Leclerc] for example, I have full trust in him and full confidence. I just need to keep performing on track.”

It really changed my life when I signed with them

Gabriele Minì

Minì has been part of Nicolas Todt’s company, All Road Management, since his karting days. “It really changed my life when I signed with them. I knew I was in very good hands. I also had a season of karting at the same time, and to be with Nicolas helped me focus on racing, helped me to be calmer. I didn’t have to worry about where I would be in the future as long as strong results keep coming.”

About his future, Minì knows where he’d like to be next year. “After two seasons in FRECA, FIA F3 seems to be the best option. That’s not on me, that will be settled by Nicolas. I’m sure he will take the best decision for me and for my career. But from my side, I just need to focus on the end of the FRECA season, do well there, and see what the future delivers. I’m not really thinking about F1 or other championships for the moment, because things need to be taken step by step, year by year, race by race.”

Hadjar, Saucy, and Antonelli

In 2021, Gabriele Minì’s main rival was Isack Hadjar for the rookie FRECA title and the Frenchman is now fighting for the FIA F3 title against much more experienced drivers. Could have Minì directly stepped up to F3? “I think a second year of FRECA was the best choice for me, I’m still very young. I’m still learning a lot this year and I think this will help me for my future.”

Minì is probably one of the drivers who know Isack Hadjar and Grégoire Saucy the best. While Saucy was a dominant leader in FRECA last year, he is struggling in F3 currently and sits 17th in the driver’s standings. “Isack and Grégoire are both very talented and very quick drivers. You can’t only look at the results, because results are a combination of luck, of the package of the car, the driver, the race events…

You can’t only look at the results, because results are a combination of luck, of the package of the car, the driver, the race events…

Gabriele Minì

“Personally, I wouldn’t have believed Isack would be leading the championship because looking at last year’s testing, he was struggling a bit, but maybe it was only the track. At the same time, Grégoire looked very strong. And in the first races, both were in the top 5. But during the season, Isack managed to improve his level and is doing an amazing season. Grégoire is struggling more, I don’t really know the situation for him, so I can’t tell why. I hope he will recover in the final rounds.”

Italy has two of the biggest feeder series talents with Minì and Italian and ADAC F4 leader Andrea Kimi Antonelli. “I know him really well, we have been racing together since 2013. We are not the same age, so we haven’t done the same categories at the same time, but I personally know him and he has always been very strong. Let’s see what the future gives to him, but for sure, he is really talented” said Minì about his younger fellow countryman.

FRECA returns on the Red Bull Ring this weekend. One month later, the series will have back-to-back race weekends at Barcelona and Mugello to finish the season.

Header Photo Credit: Klaas Norg / Dutch Photo Agency

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