He is only 15, due to turn 16 on March 20th, one day before what would have been the birthday of the unforgettable Ayrton Senna, and the passion in his voice when he talks about motorsport is tangible.
Gabriele Minì breathed the air of engines from an early age: all of his family competed and still do, from his grandfather and father, who ran in slaloms in an Abarth A112, to his uncle. The young Sicilian has already overtaken them though, by winning the 2020 Italian F4 Championship Powered by Abarth in the colors of ACI Team Italia, the Federation’s “nationals” supporting young drivers. He is the first Italian to win the national title in the 7th season of the Federation’s preparatory series, which includes in its annals the names of Lance Stroll, Marcus Armstrong and Enzo Fittipaldi, and has witnessed drivers of the caliber of Mick Schumacher, Lando Norris and Robert Shwartzman passing by. His season, his victory and his advice for “new entries” to the series, from the young man from Palermo who dreams of Formula 1.
The 2020 season was an emotional, exciting one for the young Sicilian who, as a rookie, set the pace straight away, winning the national F4 Championship powered by Abarth one race early: “There were so many emotions last year,” noted Minì. “Winning my first season wasn’t easy at all and it gives me great satisfaction, but I think the most exciting moment was after Race 3 at Imola when I knew I had won the championship. Running in one championship per year and winning it means achieving 100% of my goals.” That 100% already consists of karting, where the Palermo driver amazed everyone from his start, at 7 years old, up to the point of carving himself a niche among the greats, with wins at European and World Championships. To get to the top though, Minì has but one secret: “What’s needed is the patience to improve day in day out, one test after another, with no expectations to go on strong from day 1. This is a trait I have built up over time and even the mistakes I’ve made have been vital for my learning. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve managed to bring points home from almost every race.”
Twenty races run in the Italian F4 Championship Powered by Abarth and only one withdrawal, in Race 3 at Monza, with finishes in the points in all the others. The spoils of the 15-year-old with the Prema team include 4 victories, 12 podium placings and 5 pole positions. At Imola, he won the championship, stating the track named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari to be one of his favorites, despite the second round of the season at the Santerno circuit being one of his most difficult times: “Tracks can be appreciated for the results there: if you do well, a track is great; if you don’t, it isn’t. Actually, I think the most difficult stage was the second, also at Imola, every other lap during the qualifiers, when the yellow flag was waved and I couldn’t manage anything better than 7th. Apart from being my favorite track, I’d say that Imola is the place where I’ve had the most difficulty.”
So many kilometers run in tests and racing weekends, and a car that feels increasingly his day after day, with significant improvements in his performance and driving. Despite his youth, Gabriele Minì immediately became an excellent member of the team in finding the right setup, coming onto the track in a single-seater that has always been at the zenith: “In terms of performance, it has always been an amazing car,” said Minì. “There are minimal differences between one car and another and this means quality. Reliability is also a strength, I didn’t have a single problem in it all season. But what makes the difference so I can win is a good setup, where the team plays a vital role. The way I break, accelerate, handle the tires and the engine are details that have a big effect on the behavior of the single-seater. In my opinion, it can be an understeering car, it might be the opposite for other drivers. That’s why I think the driver is the “first setup”. When I give the data to the team, I also put my feelings across and their great skill has always been to give me a car that can compete.” That car enabled Minì to become the first Italian to win an all-Italian series: Tatuus chassis, Abarth engine, Pirelli tires, Italian team. After a win as major as the 15-year-old Gabriele Minì’s, the responsibilities mount up and the technical baggage can be passed on to his successors, along with some advice for the drivers due to run in F4 in 2021: “My first piece of advice is definitely to be patient and calm when racing, without necessarily going after victory, but trying to finish as far forward as possible. The championships are made up of so many races, so it’s useless to always try to cross the limits, which risks throwing away all the progress made.”
Victory in the F4 series isn’t Minì’s only connection to Abarth. A brand that brings to the young champion’s mind the word “performance”, but not only, because there has always been a passion for motorsport and for the brand founded by Carlo Abarth in the Minì family: “Abarth also reminds me of my dad’s races when he ran in slaloms in the Abarth A112. We could say there’s no lack of passion in the Minì family: my dad, my uncle and my grandfather all competed and now even my little brother has started racing. You could say the sport that runs in the family is definitely motor racing. I’ve only tried driving the Abarth A112 for a few meters, but I was lucky enough to have my dad there at my side. It was a really fun experience that I hope to repeat soon, maybe sitting beside him again.”
Gabriele Minì has a dream for the future, the same as every young person starting off in their motorsport career, but before the dream comes a journey and a very long way to go: “My dream is to reach the summit of motor racing, Formula 1, however difficult it might be,” said Minì. “We could say the road isn’t quite vertical, it’s actually upside down as it’s an uphill struggle. Other than my dreams though, I need to focus one season after another on doing my best to grow, then I’ll be happy to take it as it comes as long as I can continue to compete.”.