In 1950, Italian Guiseppe Farina won the inaugural Formula One season, taking victory in half of the races in which he and his Alfa Romeo 158 competed (the Indy 500 was then part of the F1 calendar, but the European teams did not participate).
Then came the great Alberto Ascari, who won back-to-back world titles in 1952 and 1953. Ascari, in the dominant Ferrari 500, won nine straight races (again excluding Indy) over the two seasons—a record that still stands.
Nearly 60-years later, there hasn't been an Italian Formula One world champion since.
Italian-born and raised Mario Andretti won the 1978 title and Michele Alboreto might well have won the 1985 title but for his Ferrari failing to finish the final five races, but it's been slim pickings. Most recently Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli have won races, but neither ever really looked likely to take the championship.
Now, worst of all for Italy, there's not an Italian in the entire field.
How can this be for a country with such a rich motor sport history? After all, in Ferrari, Italy has the most successful formula one team of all time—shouldn't this be to Italian drivers' advantage?
Actually, a very widely-held opinion is that the popularity of Ferrari is actually a hindrance to Italian drivers. With the people and press of Italy far more interested to see the red cars than any particular driver, there's a wide spread belief that this can hold back the progress of any potential Italian drivers.
And, seeing as it is the most successful team, there's also a level of expectation that a Ferrari driver must have already proven himself. So if the door is not opened to a Ferrari seat, where does the Italian driver gain this experience?
You can't really rely on the other Italian-based team Scuderia Torro Rosso as, unlike their previous incarnation as Minardi in which drivers like Trulli did get their start, their affiliation with Red Bull means they have an entirely different agenda for young drivers.
Sauber is the obvious choice, and the Ferrari engine customer has a good working relationship with the Prancing Horse. Sauber has provided a place for former Ferrari proteges Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez to hone their craft.
So if there is, at the very least, this small opportunity that Ferrari can open, the resultant conclusion would be that there isn't an Italian candidate exceptional enough for them to take the chance on.
Be that again seems untrue. Let's have a look at three possible candidates...