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Baumgartner Could Test for Others, Says Manager

Hungarian Minardi driver Zsolt Baumgartner may test for another team before the end of this year, according to his manager, Tamas Frank.

Hungarian Minardi driver Zsolt Baumgartner may test for another team before the end of this year, according to his manager, Tamas Frank.

Frank, speaking at a news conference at Ferihegy Airport barely minutes after Baumgartner's plane has landed in Budapest, said he was in discussion with one or more teams about the driver's career.

"In Formula One, everything tends to be decided in the last moments," he said. "We would like to take another step next season, of course. I fancy Zsolt should test for another team this year. There have been discussions going on, but I can't say anything more."

Frank was not willing to reveal which team he has been talking to, however speculations suggested it could only be Jaguar, since Jordan wouldn't be considered as a "step", and currently no other teams employ pay drivers.

Baumgartner, the first Hungarian to get onto the Formula One grid, became only the 9th driver to score a point with a Minardi in the 20-year long history of the small Faenza-based squad, when he finished 8th, albeit three laps down from Michael Schumacher's victorious Ferrari, at the US Grand Prix on Sunday.

Since Italian Pierluigi Martini lined up on the grid at the 1985 Brazilian Grand Prix in what was Minardi's only car at the time, the team has collected just 31 points. During the same period, big guns like McLaren has won three-times as many Grands Prix, and scored somewhere around 2,000 points.

"I was quite touched," Baumgartner admitted after he couldn't take off his helmet for several minutes as overjoyed members of the Minardi team congratulated him, shaking his hands and patting his back in total euphoria. "Some mechanics even started to cry," he told Hungarian website A5.hu.

Better than Jordan

Baumgartner's management had been heavily criticized last winter for signing with Minardi instead of Jordan, but now both Baumgartner and Frank stated this was the right decision.

The 23-year old driver, who started his Formula One career with Jordan last year, stepping in for injured Ralph Firman at the Hungarian and Italian Grands Prix, said Minardi was "more passionate" about racing than the Silverstone-based team.

He also praised his mechanics, stating that "they make very few mistakes and are really devoted to their work, even though we are not the best team on the grid."

One of Baumgarter's previous backers, Hungarian oil company Mol Rt., has withdrawn its sponsorship offer after learning the driver didn't choose Jordan. Frank has questioned their decision in hindsight, however, claiming that "according to statistics, Minardi has beaten Jordan in terms of media coverage by far" since the start of the season.

And, he added: "to score a point in a Minardi is much more valuable than to score ten in a Jordan."

Unexpected result

The last time a Minardi driver managed to present points to his team was at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, where Mark Webber finished a much applauded 5th. Baumgartner said he did not expect to put an end to Minardi's pointless period in Indy.

"I thought we could maybe have a chance at the Hungaroring, but I think it was great to do it in Indianapolis, one of the true homes of motor racing. It's a bit like if I have scored in Monaco," he said.

He may not be the quickest driver on the grid, but Frank thinks Baumgartner could stay in Formula One after this season.

"We would definitely like to keep Zsolt in Formula One next year, and we hope he could progress to a higher-level team," he said.

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