Record updated 22-Apr-20
Argentine racing driver who raced for the Minardi Formula One team in 1998. At 19, he became the then third youngest F1 driver in history when he landed his seat alongside Shinji Nakano, but left the championship at the end of the season.
Esteban Tuero was born in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires at a time when the likes of Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost were just beginning their careers. The Argentine Grand Prix was based near to his home, at the Oscar Gálvez race circuit. This meant that Formula One was popular where he grew up and, though the grand prix was discontinued in 1981, the sport was one of the biggest in the country.
Tuero was born to a family who had a huge interest in motor racing, his father being a minor race car driver, and so Esteban was groomed for the big time from an early age by beginning karts at the age of seven. He would drive karts until 1992, moving up to the Formula series the following year.
Tuero moved up to car racing in 1993, spending a season with the Crespi team in Formula Renault. In 1994, he switched to Formula Honda with the Kissling team, becoming champion. All of his career so far had been in his native Argentina, so despite the pressures of racing in a Formula series whilst only 14, he was given his first taste of traveling the continent with a few races in South American Formula Three, driving a Ralt/Opel with the INI team.
In 1995, he moved to Europe, his father knowing his career would need to go there in order to gain momentum. He won the Italian Formula 2000 National Trophy by a large margin in a Dallara 392, and was also given a taste of Italian Formula Three in a Dallara 395. In 1996, he joined the bigger Italian F3 team Coloni Motorsport, driving a Dallara 396 with an Alfa Romeo engine. His performances in the series started generating interest from Formula One teams, with Benetton in the frame for signing him. It would be Minardi, though, who secured his services as a test driver for the team, despite being just 18 years old.
His 1996 Formula Three season was a success, showcasing his skills. Tuero finished fourth in his first race, and he won his second race, only to be disqualified due to using illegal fuel. In the non-championship Monaco event, he would start on the front row alongside the future successful F1 driver Jarno Trulli, battling with him before eventually punting him at the hairpin on Lap 17. Tuero would retire due to a flat battery later in the race.
Tuero opted to not finish the season in Formula Three, though, and jumped ship to Formula 3000 halfway through. His finishes in Italian F3 left him 13th in the final championship standings. At the age of 16, Tuero's inexperience showed in F3000, his run for Draco resulting in only one top ten and a final championship position of 16th. His poor performance for Draco meant he was dropped for 1997, but instead of dropping to Formula 3, he went to the Formula Nippon series in Japan. He only scored one point and finished 16th in the standings (ending up 81 points down on championship winner Pedro de la Rosa), but Tuero covered the required mileage making him eligible for an F1 Superlicense. His continuing test role with Minardi impressed the team to the extent that the Italian outfit gave him a race seat for the 1998 season, alongside the Japanese driver Shinji Nakano.
Initially there were doubts over whether Tuero would be allowed to compete in the 1998 season. Although Minardi had signed him to a valid contract, the young Argentine failed to meet all of the requirements of the superlicense. Many were pleased at this, claiming to fear the safety risks imposed by a young, inexperienced driver. F1 pundit Martin Brundle, incorrectly believing that Tuero had failed to acquire a Superlicense, is quoted as saying, "As for Tuero, it would have been scary. I don't like to see these guys out there with so little experience. Imagine it: even if he didn't qualify, he'd be getting in the way during qualifying. And if he did qualify, then he'd definitely be being lapped plenty. He'd have really needed to have his wits about him. To be honest, it annoys me, people like that, with zilch credibility."
Tuero was eventually awarded his license by the FIA, though, and upon starting the season he become the third youngest ever F1 driver. Only Mike Thackwell and Ricardo Rodriguez had competed at a younger age. Indeed, he qualified ahead of five drivers at Melbourne, including the experienced Olivier Panis as well as Tuero's own teammate Nakano. Minardi was a team stuck at the back of the pack with the Tyrrells, who were completing their final season in F1, and Tuero thus only made the top ten once (at Imola).
Despite his poor results, Tuero was able to hack it in the sport, despite being over ten years younger than some. Many looked at him by the end of his first year as a great prospect for the future, and he never caused problems as Brundle and others had predicted. His final race of the season, however, would also be his final race in a single seater Formula sport ever, at the 1998 Japanese Grand Prix. Starting 21st on the Suzuka grid, he accidentally hit the wrong pedal on lap 29, accelerating instead of braking. This resulted in him slamming into the back of the helpless Toranosuke Takagi, and Tuero ended up riding high over his rival's car, injuring a vertrebra in his neck in the process. He ended his season with an on-track argument with Takagi, the angry Tyrrell driver he had just ploughed into.
Tuero had ended his season badly, but he had more than shown that he deserved his place on the grid. A restructured Minardi team looked forward to pairing the Argentine with newcomer Marc Gené in 1999, but Tuero surprised everyone in late January with the announcement of his retirement. Despite lots of speculation as to why he left the sport so soon, Tuero himself has been sworn to secrecy over the matter. Some speculated that he was merely homesick, having started his career so young, and never having recovered from the injuries suffered at Suzuka. Another theory, put forward by French magazine Auto-Hebdo, is that Tuero was embarrassed at the Argentine media's mocking his performances, though this criticism has been generally deemed unfair, since he was driving a Minardi was so young and inexperienced. Another theory was that he retired from the sport in protest at the decision to pull the Argentine Grand Prix from the F1 calendar in 1999. Others say he may have been hindered by sponsorship difficulties and by a fallout with manager Eduardo Ramirez. It has also been suggested that it was the dream of Tuero's father that his son race in F1, an ambition that Esteban himself may not have shared.
Although he retired from Formula One, Tuero never completely left motorsport. In 1999, he joined the Argentinian TC2000 touring car racing series, where he struggled to make an impact by finishing outside the top ten overall. But later started to make some ground up, fighting for victories and podiums. He won two races at the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo which was one of the three official Volkswagen cars on the grid. After that, Volkswagen discontinued his official link with the team while they were developing new cars for the series. The new car, a Volkswagen Bora, was far from reliable. In fact, Tuero was leading some races with a nice gap and then he had to retire due to mechanical failures. He was linked with a pay-drivers seat in the CART series for 2002, but it never happened.
Despite that he continued racing at TC2000 with several teams and some successful performances.
For 2008 Esteban Tuero is part of the ACA team racing with the Ferrari 550 at the FIA GT championship. He took part of the first two races of the season at Silverstone and Monza being quite faster than his co-driver Gastón Mazzacane. He will be joined at Adria with ex-Renault F1 tester José María "Pechito" López.
Esteban was also racing in Turismo Nacional in his native Argentina but announced his retirement from racing after the 2016 TC2000 season.