Baumgartner signs for Minardi Baumgartner signs for Minardi

As expected, Zsolt Baumgartner has accepted the offer of a race seat at Minardi for 2004, alongside Gianmaria Bruni. The 22 year-old Hungarian secured backing from his country's government after Minardi boss Paul Stoddart made the offer last week. Baumgartner was test driver for Jordan in 2003 and stood in for Ralph Firman at the Hungarian and Italian Grands Prix. He becomes the first Hungarian Formula One driver.

Zsolt Baumgartner.
Photo by Jordan Grand Prix.
"For me, Christmas has definitely come early this year," said Buamgartner in a statement from the team. "The two races I did this past season made me more determined than ever that I wanted to be in Formula One. I have now realised that dream, although I don't think the reality of it has quite sunk in yet."

"There are many people who have helped me to get to this point in my racing career, but I particularly want to thank Thomas Frank, for his unstinting efforts on my behalf, and Paul Stoddart, for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do in Formula One."

"I just want to start working with the European Minardi team as soon as possible, so that I can be well prepared for the beginning of the season. It is a huge challenge, but I am really looking forward to it."

Stoddart added: "We are very pleased that we have been able to finalise Zsolt's contract at this time. I believe he has considerable ability, and hopefully, the nurturing environment within Minardi, which has helped to launch the Formula One careers of so many talented young drivers in recent years, will also allow him to develop and hone his skills to the point where he firmly establishes his credentials at the very top level of motor racing."

Minardi will race the PS04 next season, which was tested earlier this year. The new chassis will be based on this season's car and may have developments incorporated from the Arrows A23 chassis that Stoddart bought when Arrows went into liquidation. Minardi expects to announce further plans early in 2004.