We write the 28th of October 1996 when Minardi arrives at Misano for a youngster test. Andrea Boldrini (1996 Italian F3 champion), João Barbosa (1996 runner-up champion Italian F3) and Esteban Tuero are the drivers that will take place behind the wheel of the Minardi M195B. Two years later Esteban Tuero would debut for Minardi with the M198. Only to retire just before he would test with the Minardi M01 in January 1999.
To continue the story of the youngster test at Misano. The three drivers were chosen to become one of Minardi’s drivers in the future. As the team was looking for young talent, and of course good sponsors. Esteban Tuero had the fastest time 1:17,06 (Quicker than Marques his track records at Misano). Andrea Boldrini had the second fastest time with a 1:17,38. Followed by João Barbosa with a 1:18,22.
It would take another 9 months before Esteban Tuero would return in the Minardi. This time he was considered as one of the driver for 1998. To gain more experience, and the need for his super licence, he tested with the Minardi M197 at Misano, Fiorano and later on in Barcelona. Eventually he would debut for the Minardi team, after receiving his super licence last minute, in 1998.
His year with Minardi was not a good one, though we can’t say either he had a bad year. As a rookie, he gained the max, perhaps even more, out of the Minardi M198, which was basically still the car from 1995. He managed to out qualify his Japanese teammate Shinji Nakano on several occasions and if he did not have the bad luck at SPA he would have scored points for Minardi. His best result was an eight place during the San Marino Grand Prix. Sadly, he spun off quite a few times during the races.
When the Formula one circus appeared in Japan for the last race of the season, there were already ongoing negotiations between Esteban Tuero’s management and the Minardi team for a seat in 1999. The Minardi team was interested to keep Tuero as he showed fine results and grew quickly as a Formula One driver. When the lights turned green for the start of the Japanese Grand Prix Tuero started from the back of the grid, giving everything to go forwards. At lap 29, when he wanted to brake, he accidentally hit the throttle. He crashed into the back of Toranosuke Takagi’s Tyrrell. He flew in the air and when hitting the ground he injured several vertebrae’s in his neck.
What happened after the Japanse Grand Prix is not sure. It is known that Minardi offered Tuero a new contract for 1999 as one of their drivers. According to news reports, the deal signed for 1999.
First of all should mention that Esteban was to test with the team in December 1998. However, his doctors advised him to take two months rest after his shunt in the Japanese Grand Prix, as explained above. The testing was done by Dutchie Donny Crevels, Laurent Redon and future Minardi driver Marc Gené.
Esteban Tuero was to test with the Minardi M01 at Barcelona in late January 1999. As the deal was signed, he would have been the first driver to test with the new Minardi. However, two days before the testing began in Barcelona he resigned from the Formula One. At that time only Tuero was assigned as one of Minardi drivers. While the rumours went that Marc Gené would replace Shinji Nakano at Minardi.
The Minardi would stay empty in the pits as Tuero left the Formula One. At that time, it was said that Tuero was to seek his future in different forms of autosport. Since then a lot of stories appeared in the media regarding his decision to leave the Formula One. Some stories are about him being home sick and want to return to Argentine. While other situate a more darker story about some conflicts. However, probably he left the Formula One after his big shunt in the Japanese Grand Prix in lap 29.
Tuero never gave a reason why he left the Formula One, a few years ago I had a chat with Giancarlo Minardi about Tuero with Minardi. Giancarlo could tell me that he wasn’t even sure why he left the team. They offered him a contract for 1999 and were happy to keep him as one of their drivers. Especially as he was still young and had a whole future ahead of him. It a huge miss he did not stay with the Minardi team for 1999. Who knows what he could have accomplished together with Gene?