Verstappen Pleased with Minardi Move

Dutch driver Jos Verstappen was delighted after booking his return to Formula One today with a move to hard-up Minardi after a year on the sidelines.

Verstappen Pleased with Minardi Move

Dutch driver Jos Verstappen was delighted after booking his return to Formula One today with a move to hard-up Minardi after a year on the sidelines.

The long-awaited deal, taking him to his sixth team in a decade, was announced at a news conference. The experienced Verstappen, who turns 31 on March 4, will partner British newcomer Justin Wilson at the Ford-powered team.

"I am very pleased to be back in Formula One and to have signed to drive for Minardi in 2003," Verstappen said. "Up and down the pitlane, it has always been known that Minardi builds good cars and is a strong little team that has only been prevented from achieving its full potential over the years by a lack of sponsorship.

"I am really impressed with (team principal) Paul Stoddart's plans for the team and by this year's technical package, which looks strong to me. I have been around Formula One long enough, however, to know better than to make extravagant claims about a team's competitiveness before a new season begins.

"All I can say is that I like what I see at Minardi and I am going to do my best for the team in 2003. I'm really looking forward to it."

A friend of Ferrari's World Champion Michael Schumacher after partnering him at Benetton in the German's first title-winning year of 1994, Verstappen entered Formula One as a prodigious young talent.

Team principal Stoddart said the combination of Verstappen and Wilson would give Minardi its strongest ever line-up.

"The two of them will provide just the right blend of youth and experience, and combined with an effective chassis and Cosworth Racing's powerful CR3 engine, we will definitely have a much stronger package than in 2002," he said.

"Until we get to the first Grand Prix in Melbourne, it's impossible to know to what degree the other teams will have improved over the winter and how we'll compare with them. Even so, I'd like to think that Minardi could be the 'breakthrough team' of 2003," he added.

The Boss

After a season at Benetton, in which he made headlines when his car was engulfed in flames in the pits at Hockenheim, he moved to Simtek, Tyrrell, Stewart and most recently the troubled Arrows team.

Arrows, now in administration and excluded from the Championship, dropped him shortly before the start of the 2002 season in favour of German Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who has brought a wind-up petition against the team.

Wilson, attending the annual Autosport International motor show in Birmingham, England, said he was looking forward to working with a driver known as 'The Boss' to his considerable Dutch fan club.

"I'm looking forward to it. From what I've seen of him he's a good guy. I don't have that experience and I'm hoping that I can bring something to the team just as he brings the experience. I guess we can work together and try and improve the car. I'm sure we will get on."

Minardi's announcement left Jordan, with whom Verstappen had also been linked by the media, as the only team yet to complete their lineup for the season which starts in Australia on March 9.

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