Leinders signs Minardi deal

Minardi has signed Bas Leinders as its official test driver for the 2004 season, and the 28-year-old Belgian will participate in Friday practice sessions at grand prix weekends from Melbourne this weekend

Leinders signs Minardi deal

Leinders, a former German Formula 3 champion, has most recently been racing in the Dallara Nissan World Series, where he finished third overall in 2002 and '03. His first taste of F1 came with Jordan in testing at Barcelona, but he blotted his copybook by shunting heavily on his out lap.

"I had always held out hope that I would make it to Formula 1 at some stage, and I am obviously very pleased that Minardi has now given me a chance to show what I can do," said Leinders. "I'm sure that my experience in a variety of single-seater race cars will allow me to adapt quickly to the demands of F1, so that I can start to provide the team's engineers and the Bridgestone technicians with useful information on car set-up and tyre performance.

"Hopefully, what we learn in testing on Friday will then benefit the team's performance in the race on Sunday. It is the sort of work I really enjoy, and I'm certainly looking forward to my first run in the Minardi Cosworth."

Team principal Paul Stoddart said: "Minardi is very pleased to have concluded a contract with Bas that will see him become our regular Friday test driver, running in a third chassis alongside Gimmi [Bruni] and Zsolt [Baumgartner] at all grand prix weekends. He has a lot of useful, and relevant, racing experience under his belt, as well as the added advantage of knowing many of the F1 circuits from his time in the International F3000 Championship.

"I'm sure he will prove to be a real asset to the team and help us to develop the Minardi Cosworth PS04B quickly, so that we can start to maximise its potential as early in the season as possible. With what I believe is a strong driver line-up now in place, we can start to focus on the serious business of improving our performance."

In a separate deal, former Champ Car racer Tiago Monteiro has also signed up as a Minardi test driver. The 27-year-old, from Oporto, Portugal, will assist the team with its test and development programme in the course of the year, dovetailing these commitments with a full season competing in the Dallara Nissan World Series, where he will drive for Carlin Motorsport.

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