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Stoddart Backs Webber-Wilson Partnership

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has backed Briton Justin Wilson and Australian Mark Webber to become the "most powerful" duo in Formula One after giving the pair their big break in the sport.

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has backed Briton Justin Wilson and Australian Mark Webber to become the "most powerful" duo in Formula One after giving the pair their big break in the sport.

Wilson left for Jaguar on Monday to replace Antonio Pizzonia and Stoddart is confident that Jaguar will once again end up reaping the benefit of his talent-spotting skills.

Stoddart tipped Webber to make a huge impact with Jaguar after over-seeing the 26-year-old driver's move to the Milton Keynes-based team last season. With Webber already achieving five finishes in the points in 2003, Stoddart is confident in the ability of 24-year-old Wilson to match his new teammate.

"I saw the same qualities in Justin (Wilson) and Mark (Webber)," said Stoddart. "I am in the box to know how they should compare and I think Mark will have the advantage this year. Unless I am very much mistaken, I suspect the combination of Mark and Justin will continue for quite a while and could become the most powerful in Formula One.

"Having had such a star from us in Mark, Jaguar were pretty keen to follow on and we insisted that Justin would be the perfect partner for Mark. Even in Formula 3000 their two families got on really well. I would have thought there are three or four years of options with the two and I think it is going to be a marriage made in heaven."

Despite Stoddart's pride in having another of his discoveries take a step up the Formula One ladder, the Australian entrepreneur admits being disappointed to see Wilson leave after just eleven races with the back-of-the-grid outfit.

But Stoddart admits his sadness will be tempered by knowledge of a job well-done and the promise of a healthy profit from his investment in Wilson's share-scheme.

"Given a perfect world I would have liked to see him finish the year with us - but the world is never perfect, is it? I also feel for Antonio (Pizzonia)," said Stoddart. "I knew about it for a few weeks and it shows, at least, that we are doing a good job at Minardi in getting the right drivers coming through.

"Added to that, if you are trading in Justin Wilson shares - and I have got some of them so I still have an interest in his future - then you are looking at a handsome profit."

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