Friesacher Set to Lose Minardi Drive

Austrian Patrick Friesacher is likely to lose his Minardi Formula One drive next week because his sponsorship money has dried up

Friesacher Set to Lose Minardi Drive

"Patrick being replaced at the next race is a strong possibility because of sponsorship money not being paid," Minardi boss Paul Stoddart told Reuters on Friday.

The Australian entrepreneur said three drivers were in the frame to replace the 24-year-old and a decision would be taken early next week before the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

He gave no names but the two most likely candidates are Jordan's Dutch reserve driver Robert Doornbos and Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner.

Were Doornbos to get the drive, Minardi would have a double Dutch line-up with compatriot Christijan Albers in the other car.

Baumgartner, the first Hungarian to race in the Formula One Championship, drove for Minardi last season and scored a point at the US Grand Prix.

Friesacher, who raced in the now-defunct Formula 3000 junior series last year, secured his Minardi seat in February after Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa was unable to come up with enough sponsorship.

He would otherwise have been the reserve driver.

The Austrian scored three points at Indianapolis when just six cars took part following the withdrawal of the seven Michelin teams because of fears about the safety of their tyres on the final banked corner.

Turkish Driver

Otherwise Friesacher's Formula One career has been unremarkable with Minardi, the slowest and poorest team on the starting grid. He has not finished six of the 11 races.

There have been problems with his financial backing for more than a month, with Minardi demanding that all of their drivers bring in sponsorship.

Stoddart said Minardi had also had discussions about possibly linking up with a Turkish driver at the country's inaugural Grand Prix in Istanbul next month.

"We have talked to a Turkish driver and if a commercial deal is concluded, we would be proud to run him in Turkey," the Australian said.

The deal could involve a demonstration run or, less likely because of superlicence constraints, a Friday test slot as a third driver. A race drive is out of the question.

The only Turkish driver currently at a high enough level in single-seaters is Can Artam, who competes in the GP2 series that has replaced Formula 3000 as the main Formula One support category at race weekends.

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