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BAR Drivers: Enrique Bernoldi


By Phil Huff
May 13 2005

Enrique Bernoldi grew up watching the performances of Brazilian World Champions, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet and was bitten by the racing bug at an early age. His own racing career began when he was nine in a local karting championship in Brazil. He won the championship. Enrique was ready for tougher competition so, after moving to Sao Paulo, he competed against the best kart racers in Brazil and in three years won two Sao Paulo Championships and two Brazilian Championships, defeating rivals such as Helio Castro-Neves and Tony Kanaan.

In 1995, Enrique moved to Europe, a journey made by all his heroes before him, to race cars. At the age of 16 he claimed fourth place in the Italian Formula Alfa-Boxer and the next year entered the European Formula 3 Championship. Enrique went on to dominate the series, winning nine of the 11 championship races. It was time for another step forward.

For the 1997 season, Enrique had signed to race for the Promatecme team in the British Formula 3 Championship - the proving ground of many a champion including Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen. British Formula 3 was tough, but by mid-season Enrique was up with the front-runners and took victory at Spa. He made steady progress and the 1998 Formula 3 season saw him take six victories and he ended the year as runner-up in the Championship. He was also runner-up in the Marlboro Masters in Zandvoort and took third place at the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix.

Onwards and upwards. In 1999 Enrique stepped up to F3000 with the Red Bull Junior Team, and also got his first taste of Formula One when he drove a Sauber at Magny Cours. A good job was rewarded with a test drive for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Enrique continued in F3000 for the 2000 season and led two of the races. During winter testing for the 2001 F3000 season he was regularly at the top of the time sheets and was favourite to win the Championship in 2001 but this was not to be.

After a test with the Arrows team, it was announced that Enrique would become a full-time Formula One driver, as team-mate to Jos Verstappen. He had a tough start to what would turn out to be a tough season.

It was the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix that would bring Enrique Bernoldi to the attention of the world's media. As McLaren's David Coulthard stalled on pole position he had to start the race from the back of the grid and soon came across Enrique. Try as he might he could not get past the Brazilian. Enrique put in a very mature drive, holding off Coulthard's challenge for over half the race, but was berated by Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug for doing so. Arrows Team Principal Tom Walkinshaw's response was simple, "He (Ron Dennis) shouldn't expect the whole sea to open up in front of his car, just because it is silver and black and has a McLaren badge on the side." The general consensus was that Enrique had done a good job. You can only overtake at Monaco if the car in front makes a mistake - Enrique didn't.

Nothing could have prepared the team for the problem that would cause Enrique to retire from the next race in Canada. His radiator became blocked by a hamburger wrapper which caused his car to overheat. He also had a lucky escape at the start of the German Grand Prix when a wheel from Luciano Burti's airborne Prost landed on his car.

Hid successful, if ultimately pointless first season in Formula One was enough to convince Tom Walkinshaw to resign him at Arrows, partnering the vastly more experience Heinz-Harald Frentzen, following Verstappen's last minute ousting.

The Arrows team fell apart through the season, however, finally missing the last six races as the team went to the wall. A deal to remain in Formula One proved elusive, and the Brazilian opted to change series.

Competing in the popular and competitive World Series by Nissan, Bernoldi won the penultimate race in 2003, ending up sixth in the championship. An improved 2004 season saw him take third overall, as negotiations with BAR Honda started.

The surprise announcement that Bernoldi had been taken on as a test driver for the Brackley team, although initially only guaranteed three tests, came towards the end of the season as BAR made a final push to take second place in the championship.

Enrique continues at BAR Honda in 2005, assisting third driver Anthony Davidson and regular race drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato in developing the BAR Honda 007, the car tasked with taking BAR's first win.

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