Australian Mark Webber, who has been one of the names rumoured likely to take the vacant race seat at Minardi this year, is optimistic that he will join the team as a driver alongside Alex Yoong. KL Minardi's driver line up has been a source of...
Australian Mark Webber, who has been one of the names rumoured likely to take the vacant race seat at Minardi this year, is optimistic that he will join the team as a driver alongside Alex Yoong.
KL Minardi's driver line up has been a source of speculation in the past few weeks, including the possibility that Jos Verstappen could sign up. Although Verstappen was contracted to Arrows for 2002, it is now presumed that Heinz Harald Frentzen will take his seat - but Verstappen's manager continues to deny reports that Frentzen has ousted the Dutchman.
Webber, test driver for Benetton last year, is hopeful that he will line up on the grid for Minardi.
"I'm optimistic,” He said.“ Flavio ( Briatore ) and Bruno (Michel) have been awesome on my behalf. Weeks ago they told me not to worry, to be calm and just sit tight and stay fit. But I've been in this spot before so I wont be getting too excited until something is actually signed, on paper. This is the big end of town and things can change very quickly, but yes, I am optimistic.”
Due to start testing in Valencia, Spain, on January 15th, Minardi have confirmed that Dutchman Christijan Albers - one of Webber's possible challengers for the vacant 2002 seat - will join the squad to carry out durability testing. The 22 year old will work alongside Alex Yoong and several others in the team's pre-season schedule. Albers was an official test driver for European Minardi last year and also competed in the 2001 DTM ( German Touring Car ) series.
"Christijan is someone who is close to our team, and we continue to rate him highly,” said Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart.“ Now that our pre-season testing programme is set to get under way in earnest, we thought it was an ideal opportunity to have another look at him while he helps us get through our scheduled workload, which is considerable. It’s also useful that Christijan knows the team, the engineers, and our way of working, as he has tested for us before.”
Speaking about the forthcoming test, Albers said: “ I am obviously very pleased to be asked to test again for Minardi. I know the team has made significant progress over the last year, and the new car should be a big step forward. I am really looking forward to helping with the test programme and can’t wait to experience the performance of a Formula One car again.”