Ferrari has been urged to take a risk and consider signing a young Italian by the country's most experienced Formula 1 driver, Riccaro Patrese.

Patrese, who started 256 grands prix during his 16-year grand prix career, believes that his nation's lack of drivers on the grid now can only be rectified if an outfit like Ferrari takes a punt.

"Why this has happened I don't know," Patrese wrote on his official website about why there were no Italians on the F1 grid for the start of a season for the first time since 1970.

"Jarno Trulli has had time at the top, but he has been racing at the back for a while and maybe it is better for him to stay at home rather than continue like this. I hope some young Italians can come into F1 in the future.

"We know how important the Ferrari team is. I remember Imola in 1983 when the fans cheered when I crashed because a Ferrari, not an Italian driver, was going to win."

Patrese thinks Ferrari, which dominates the Italian racing scene, is well placed to provide the opportunity that a young Italian drivers needs - because it could be on the look out for a replacement for Felipe Massa if the Brazilian does not impress this year.

"The best three drivers are [Fernando] Alonso, [Sebastian] Vettel and [Lewis] Hamilton at the moment, but maybe Ferrari, if they wanted, could have an Italian driver as the second driver in the team - particular as Massa hasn't looked particularly good in the last couple of seasons.

"They could take a small risk to take a young Italian driver but this hasn't happened since the time of Michele Alboreto.

"Italian drivers don't get help from a team. Ferrari have their driver academy where the Italian F3 champion gets an F1 test, but nothing seems to happen after that. I think there are good young Italian drivers but they need to be given the opportunity to prove their ability."