Gene Pays Tribute to Minardi

Former Minardi driver Marc Gene has defended the role of the struggling Formula One team following his move to Williams as a test driver.

Gene Pays Tribute to Minardi

Former Minardi driver Marc Gene has defended the role of the struggling Formula One team following his move to Williams as a test driver.

"The good thing about Minardi is that they give an opportunity to young drivers to make a start in Formula One," Gene told reporters.

"Teams like Minardi are necessary and my time with the outfit has been a very valuable experience."

Gene drove 33 races for the Italian team with a sixth place in the 1999 European Grand Prix his best result -- and securing Minardi's only point in Formula One since 1995.

Despite their lack of success, Minardi have given several top drivers -- including Italians Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli who now drive for Benetton and Jordan respectively -- their first breaks in Formula One.

Gene's switch to testing was announced on Monday.

"I think that it is preferable to be a test driver in a team that has won the world championship many times, rather than racing with a small team," Gene said.

"The truth is that when Williams rang me I felt honoured and didn't hesitate in taking up their offer."

The 26-year-old Spaniard, who will also act as Williams' reserve race driver, pointed to the greater resources available to him at his new team.

"Williams is in a different class," he said. "Without counting the people working on the engine, the team has 300 people working for them and Minardi has little more than 100."

Gene will make his Williams debut in Jerez, Spain on December 5 alongside Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Minardi general manager Giancarlo Minardi wished Gene all the best on Tuesday and predicted a bright future for the Spaniard.

"Marc has been talking to Williams for a while now and while it is sad to see him leave, we want to wish him all the best in the future," he said.

"Marc is a good driver and he has a bright future in front of him."

Losing Gene is only the latest setback to hit the Italian team.

Last season's engine supplier, Cosworth, have said they will no longer provide 'works' engines, while Minardi also lost the sponsorship of Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica last season.

The team have said they will not rush to appoint a new driver to partner Argentine Gaston Mazzacane as they also bid to find an engine supplier and sponsors for next season.

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