When reviewing the statistics of the Argentine pilots who raced in the Formula 1, the name of Gaston Mazzacane stands out for being the last compatriot who competed in the category. The platense debuted in 2000 with Minardi and in the following season he went to Prost Grand Prix, where he only ran four Grand Prix. The last of them was the San Marino GP el April 15 2001.
Mazzacane had arrived at the team of the French Alain Prost, four times champion of the F.1, hoping to make a leap in quality after an acceptable first season in the Faenza team. Under the orders of Gian Carlo Minardi finished in 12 of the 17 dates of the contest and his best result was a eighth place in the European GP, which was held at the German Nürburgring circuit. Although it was also showcased in the United States GP en Indianapolis where got to be third and fought the position with the Finn Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) in a race that had its first laps in the rain and in which the La Plata player stretched his entrance to the pits, betting that the rain was going to return.
But Gastón's stint at Prost was short-lived, lasting only a handful of races. According to Prost, the decision to unlink the Argentine was because he couldn't be as fast as his teammate, the experienced Gaul Jean Alesi. Beyond that, no one takes away from Mazzacane the satisfaction of having participated in the Maxima representing Argentina. And so he remembers ...
-What do you feel when you remember that stage of your sports campaign?
-First a lot of melancholy. Also a lot of pride and, at the same time, sadness because my departure was clouded by the financial situation of the team. I think that going from Minardi to Prost was a bad decision made jointly with my group. We were betting on something better, although we were uncertain about what 2001 would be like because in January we still did not know which engine was going to be used and that had been added that Prost had lost the support of France. They were things that made the situation unstable. That is the negative. But the positive thing was having played 21 Grands Prix. I am very proud of that and it is something that will never be erased from my head.
-One of the clauses that united you to the Prost team indicated that you should be close to the times of Jean Alesi, your teammate and with much more experience. Did that become a pressure during the four GP's that you contested for the French team?
-Obviously, it was well defined who the first driver was… But I knew exactly where he was: in a very complex team where you had French members, like Prost and Alesi himself; a Brazilian shareholder like Pedro Diniz, a Spanish chief engineer like Joan Villadelprat and Italian mechanics because Ferrari was the supplier of the engine and gearbox. Beyond that, the theme of being competitive in motorsports is permanent and not only happens in Formula 1. You have to be fast yes or yes, even if you have 17 Grands Prix and your partner is Alesi, a consecrated man with several years in racing. category. There was enormous pressure, but that didn't scare me. That never complicated me. Because the same had lived in Minardi.
-You said that going to Prost was a bad decision, what other options did you have?
-The first was to stay in Minardi. There was also the possibility of passing Arrows. I actually tried one of their cars at Silverstone. But I had great pressure from all around me and from people who worked for me to go to the Prost Grand Prix, basically, because of the charm that being with Alain Prost generated ... I went looking for more competitiveness and left Minardi aside, where I already was. very adapted, where I felt like another Italian and where I was highly valued. So much so that to this day, Minardi himself reproaches me for the decision that was made and tells me that if I had remained in his team he would have completed all of 2001. But beyond all this, my moments in Formula 1 were magical ; they were excellent.
-Did Prost's decision to dissociate you take you by surprise after the fourth date?
-No, I ran the San Marino Grand Prix knowing that it was my last race. In fact I was very professional with the whole situation because knowing that I was already out of the team, after the race at Imola I went to Silverstone to test some traction control developments that were going to be used from 2002 on ... I behaved like a professional until the last moment. But personally it was a tremendous shock because I was left out of the elite of world motorsport and more than anything because the project was to complete the season and not contest four races.
-How was it like to run the San Marino GP knowing that it was your last race with the team?
-Say your best. In fact, in full tanks I was faster than Alesi. Villadelprat asked me to drive the same way in the race and I did so until the car was left due to a mechanical problem ...
-In 2002 you had an attempt to return to Formula 1 with a team called Phoenix that had acquired Prost's cars. What do you remember from that experience?
-Indeed. At the end of 2001 the Prost Grand Prix was dissolved and Tom Walkinshaw and Charles Nickerson bought their license to compete in F-1 in 2002 as Phoenix, but everything was done very late. They had the Prost AP04s from the previous year refurbished because they didn't even have their own vehicles. I even traveled to the Malaysian GP, which was the second race on the 2002 calendar, to present myself with the Brazilian Tarso Marques as the two drivers of the team, but later the International Automobile Federation rejected his registration because the championship had already started. The truth was, it was a Chinese (sic). After that happened there, I did say: "this is done ... It is a closed stage."
-Did you imagine that you were going to be the last Argentine in Formula 1?
- Actually, I didn't think it was going to be that long. And I see a reality: each time we are further away from having a compatriot in the category again. Today we have a very difficult economic situation to be able to "create" a pilot for the F-1. I went to live in Europe at 18 years of age behind a dream and I achieved it thanks to many people who helped me. But today we are so far from that that it is impossible. The boys who leave here already travel with a broken dream.