Minardi in 'Intense Negotiations' with Verstappen

Dutch driver Jos Verstappen is in line for a Formula One comeback with Minardi next season, team owner Paul Stoddart said on Friday.

Minardi in 'Intense Negotiations' with Verstappen

Dutch driver Jos Verstappen is in line for a Formula One comeback with Minardi next season, team owner Paul Stoddart said on Friday.

"We are in intense negotiations with Verstappen's management," he said at the Italian Grand Prix. "We are looking very positively at him for next year."

Verstappen has been sidelined since the struggling Arrows team, who have now missed three of the last four races, abruptly dropped him in favour of German Heinz-Harald Frentzen before the start of the season. Both Verstappen and Frentzen, who left Arrows in August, are now taking legal action against their former team.

Stoddart has had a good relationship with Verstappen since 1997 and told Reuters that he felt strongly that the Dutch driver deserved another chance. Verstappen, a hugely popular figure in the Netherlands, has some financial backing and Stoddart has made clear that he expects both his drivers for next season to bring in sponsorship.

Formula One sources said the driver was keen to return but wanted assurances that Minardi, who are negotiating for a Ford Cosworth engine supply next year, would have a competitive motor.

The Dutchman started out in Grand Prix racing with Benetton, alongside World Champion Michael Schumacher in 1994, and has also raced for Simtek, Tyrrell and Stewart. He has twice finished on the podium, with third places for Benetton in Hungary and Belgium in 1994.

Minardi currently have Malaysian Alex Yoong, who is likely to serve as a test and reserve driver in 2003, and Australian Mark Webber. The team are ninth in the Championship after scoring a rare two points in Australia in March.

Webber is expected to move to Jaguar and has also been linked to other teams but will remain at Minardi if the deals are not completed.

Britain's Justin Wilson, last year's Formula 3000 champion, is another strong candidate for the second Minardi seat as is compatriot Anthony Davidson, Americans Townsend Bell and Bryan Herta and Italian Giorgio Pantano.

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