The debacle with Motori Moderni had left its marks when the team found itself looking for sponsors at the start of the 1988 season. It became clear that another dismal season like 1987 would be the end. The team decided to go ahead with naturally aspirated Cosworth engines and a completely new chassis designed by Giacomo Caliri, the M188. In order to satisfy major sponsor Lois, Minardi hired a second Spaniard alongside Adrian Campos: Luis Perez Sala. Perez Sala had done very well in F3000, finishing as runner up in the 1987 championships.
Being assured of good financial backing, the Minardi Team was able to do some solid R&D work and strengthen its technical staff by hiring Niki Lauda's former chief mechanic at Ferrari, Ermanno Cuoghi. The M188 was not a revolutionary car but nevertheless a very solid package that was thoroughly needed after three disappointing seasons. Adrian Campos struggled, failing to qualify three times in five races while his team mate Sala managed to qualify as far up the grid as 15th (at Monaco).
Gian Carlo Minardi was looking for a replacement and found it in Pierluigi Martini, who had already driven for the team in 1985. Martini rewarded Minardi by coming in sixth at his first race at the USGP in Detroit, scoring the team's first ever Championship Point. Martini was just one lap behind Ayrton Senna's McLaren at the finish, an indication of how competitive the M188 was.
The team's spirits were buoyed by this remarkable result but their race pace dropped rapidly as the season continued which led to Caliri's departure from Faenza. He was replaced by a team of young engineers (Gabriele Tredozi, Tommaso Carletti and Vincenzo Emiliani) headed by Aldo Costa. The team's performance picked up again and they bagged more good results such as an 8th spot by Sala in Portugal and Martini was close to repeating his points scoring performance in Australia when he came in 7th. The team came in 10th in the Constructors Championships and 6th in the Colin Chapman Trophy for teams not powered by turbo engines.