Minardi announced at a press conference in Amsterdam on December 23rd that Christijan Albers will race for the team in 2005. The 25 year-old Dutchman has been successful in the German touring car championship in recent years. Albers formerly raced for Paul Stoddart's European Racing in F3000, has also been a test driver for Minardi and a pilot of the team's two-seater cars.
"We are very pleased to be able to announce Christijan as one of our two race drivers for 2005," said Stoddart. "He has always been a naturally quick driver, but it is clear there is now an added maturity and focus with that speed."
"In short, we believe he is absolutely ready for Formula One, and we fully expect him to surprise a few people this coming season, particularly since Minardi also has ambitious plans."
"From a personal point of view, it is very gratifying to see a number of Dutch companies getting behind a talented young driver in order to help him take that final, and most difficult, step to the highest level of motor racing. Knowing Christijan as I do, I'm certain he will reward the faith placed in him."
Albers tested a Minardi at Misano last month and set the fastest time of the week in the 2004 spec car after just 20 laps. He has signed an initial one-year contract with the team. "It has always been my dream to become a Formula One driver," he said. "I know I have to work hard and stay focused."
Commercial backers of Albers' move to F1 will be announced at a pre-season launch party in Amsterdam on January 27th, but the leading investor is Lost Boys and Media Republic founder Michiel Mol. "This is my Christmas present to all Dutch F1 fans," Mol commented.
It's not yet known who Albers' teammate will be; Stoddart expects to reveal the second driver in January, as well as new sponsors. Zsolt Baumgartner, who drove for Minardi this season, is a favourite to fill the vacant race seat and Renault test driver Franck Montagny has been linked with the team. Minardi will launch its 2005 challenger at Albert Park, Melbourne, on March 3rd.