According to reports emerging from the Netherlands, the Minardi Formula One team could be about to announce the signing of Jos Verstappen and Christijan Albers for the upcoming 2003 season.
While it has been on the cards for some time now that Verstappen would be part of the Italian squad's new line-up, especially after the confirmation of Ford power next year, the identity of the Dutchman's teammate was a choice of any number of hopeful drivers.
Apparently, the team is going fully Dutch with Verstappen and Albers behind the wheel and talk is that a new main sponsorship deal with the HMG broadcasting group in the Netherlands is also on the agenda. Verstappen's long time sponsors, Lost Boys, are also said to be involved in the deal, bringing vital funds to the cash strapped squad.
Lost Boys was founded in 1993 to develop and produce new media for CD-i and CD rom before expanding their activities to the production of creative internet applications in 1995. From there it developed into a leading new media company in the Netherlands and across Europe and supported the Arrows team in F1 when Jos was at the helm.
When we first heard whispers that the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone wanted to change the rules and regulations for the upcoming 2003 championship season in a bid to booster ratings and bring back vital excitement, all types of weird and wonderful ideas were discussed. These ranged from penalizing the quickest driver with added weight to the even more ludicrous suggestion of swapping drivers throughout the various teams.
Thankfully, the changes that did eventually get the nod were a lot less exotic with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis even giving them the thumbs up, confident that they will help boost the sport without taking away from its true nature. Like many others in the Paddock, Dennis is all for the new qualifying format where drivers will have just one chance at securing pole position.
"The recently-announced changes to the F1 regulations for 2003 reflect a measured and structured consensus between the sport's governing body and competing teams," Dennis was quoted as saying on the BBC. "This has been driven by a desire to improve the entertainment value for the viewing public at grands prix without tampering with the sport's underlying fabric and tradition. I firmly believe that all those involved in framing these changes appreciated that impulsive and radical change would have risked destabilising the sport's future development. The new qualifying format may well produce more interesting starting grids than we have perhaps been used to over the past couple of years."
With a lot of talk in the media at the moment surrounding several Formula One teams and their futures, Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan is confident that things will work out just fine, despite the fact they lost their major sponsor, DHL recently.
We have lost two F1 teams in the space of a season due to economic worries, Prost back before the 2002 season even began and more recently, the Orange Arrows outfit, who were refused entry into the 2003 season after failing to contest the final five rounds this year.
However, despite some poor results last year and having to lay off staff, revealed that he works best when under pressure and in hindsight, his choices throughout 2002 were clever as they have enabled him to remain on the grid for another year.
"We tend to talk ourselves down at this time of year. I don't have a concern about sponsorship and Jordan operate 100 times better when their backs are to the wall. When money is tight, Jordan's results on the track are often a lot better," he told the Telegraph. "Laying people off, letting them go was a fortunate thing in many respects because I felt I knew how Jordan wanted to protect themselves. It's like a snail has an in-built survival mechanism. Jordan have that and one thing for sure is that when you are dealing with your own money and your name is above the door, you protect it more than ever for yourself, your sponsors and your family.
"I put certain economies in place, curtailed the testing, downsized the testing team and used other cost-cutting measures, but never depleted the new car design and development because that is sacrosanct. That takes priority over everything. In hindsight it proves that we were clever. We took Draconian and not-so-nice decisions in April and May, which is the reason why we have money to go forward into next year. Otherwise, the money would have run out about now. It was one of the smartest things we have done, because we saw something coming. We took a lot of flak because some people found it unpalatable, but no-one is giving us flak now."
The Sauber Petronas squad concluded the third day of its winter development program in Jerez with Heinz-Harald Frentzen on Saturday. The program was focused on aerodynamics and system checks as well as validation of the data that Nick gathered over the past few days.
Heinz-Harald covered a total of 79 laps and set a best time of 1:20.012. It was the first time the German driver has been behind the wheel since the Indianapolis Grand Prix in September this year and he was very happy to be back, feeling very comfortable in his new working environment.
"I very much enjoyed all the test work that we did today. I feel that we accomplished a great deal in a short time, he said. I am already familiar with the car from racing in Indianapolis, but this was an opportunity to learn even more about its systems. I now am feeling very comfortable within the Team."
"One of our programs today focused on validating all the data we gathered earlier in the week with Nick, added Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Test Team. However we also carried out some further aerodynamics assessment and Heinz-Harald Frentzen also did some work on the engine, braking and traction control systems. Overall it has been another productive and positive test for us, which again will be beneficial for the final design of the C22.
The Team will conclude the last test of the season and of its winter development program with both Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen from December 11 to December 13 in Barcelona (Spain).