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December 2003 News
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The Heretic

23 December: The Minardi team announced their second driver for the 2004 season today. Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner has managed to secure backing from the Hungarian Government guaranteeing him the second Minardi seat. Earlier Jos Verstappen dropped out of contention as his major backer Trust decided not to renew their sponsorship of the team. Justin Wilson also lost out after failing to secure enough sponsorship behind him.

Zsolt Baumgartner was delighted with the announcement and said "For me, Christmas has definitely come early this year. The two races I did this past season made me more determined than ever that I wanted to be in Formula One. I have now realised that dream, although I donít think the reality of it has quite sunk in yet.
There are many people who have helped me to get to this point in my racing career, but I particularly want to thank Thomas Frank, for his unstinting efforts on my behalf, and Paul Stoddart, for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do in Formula One. I just want to start working with the European Minardi team as soon as possible, so that I can be well prepared for the beginning of the season. It is a huge challenge, but I am really looking forward to it.Ē

Minardi Team Principal Paul Stoddart said "We are very pleased that we have been able to finalise Zsoltís contract at this time. I believe he has considerable ability, and hopefully, the nurturing environment within Minardi, which has helped to launch the Formula One careers of so many talented young drivers in recent years, will also allow him to develop and hone his skills to the point where he firmly establishes his credentials at the very top level of motor racing."

Click here for the 2004 Team and Driver Line-up Page

13 December: The Minardi team announced today that Italian Gianmaria Bruni will drive for the team in 2004. Bruni had a testing role with the team this year and has impressed team boss Paul Stoddart. Stoddart said "We've obviously had the benefit of observing 'Gimmi' at close quarters because of his testing role with Minardi and we're extremely pleased to have been able to sign him as a race driver for the 2004 season.
We've chosen him because we think he has a fantastic natural ability behind the wheel in a race car and is a fitting successor to previous European Minardi drivers, such as Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Justin Wilson. It's clear Gimmi will be following in some illustrious footsteps, but we are absolutely confident he is a new Formula One star in the making.

Gianmaria Bruni was delighted with the announcement and said "I'm just so happy, from when I was a small boy, I wanted only to be a Formula One driver. I'm one of the lucky ones, because that dream has now come true. My clear goal will be to improve with the team this coming season. This is only the first step, however, as I will just be one of 20 drivers on the grid at the beginning.
My aim is to move forward and establish myself in F1, like other Minardi drivers have done in the past. I want to thank Paul Stoddart and the European Minardi team very much. They gave me a good chance this past summer, and it has all come together very quickly since then.

Minardi have yet to announce their second driver. The only other available seats are at Jordan who have yet to announce their line-up for the 2004 season. Click here for the 2004 Team and Driver Line-up Page

12 December: The World Motor Sport Council met today and decided to move the 2004 British Grand Prix to the 11th of July (was the 4th) while the French Grand Prix was moved forward to the 4th of July but remained provisional.
The race organisers for the French Grand Prix have yet to sign a contract with Formula One Management and have now been given until the 31st of December to finalise the contract. In addition, the Council decided that all the teams competing in the championship have to agree on running the event ... 2004 Schedule

2 December: Best & Worst of 2003 - Final results:

Best Driver - Michael Schumacher Best Qualifier - Mark Webber
Best Team - Ferrari Best Rookie - Cristiano da Matta
Most Improved Team - Renault Most Improved Driver - Fernando Alonso

New Qualifying format - Much Worse

New Parc Ferme rules - Much Worse

New Points system - Much Better


Click here for the full results and voter comments (2 December)

2 December: The Jaguar team announced today that Austrian Christian Klien will partner Mark Webber in 2004. 20 year old Klien who raced in Formula BMW, Formula Renault and Formula 3 only tested for Jaguar last week but it appears that the team was so impressed with him that they've decided to sign him rather than extend Justin Wilson's contract.

David Pitchforth, the Managing Director of Jaguar Racing commented on Christian's test last week as well as his signing and said "Christian was in as much control of himself as he was the car. He was extremely calm, composed and didn't seem remotely fazed by his first ever experience with a Formula One car. His technical feedback was excellent and there is no doubt in our minds about the potential of this exciting new young talent. He worked very well with the race engineers and demonstrated increasing speed as he became familiar with the car. 
Christian's professionalism and brain bandwidth are also very impressive and combined with his application, our decision to employ him as a race driver was based on merit, potential and speed."

Christian Klien was naturally delighted with the announcement and said "Knowing that I am a Jaguar F1 driver has made me the happiest man on earth! I have worked tirelessly over the years to get to this point but I appreciate also that the real hard work for me starts now. I am indebted to Jaguar Racing for giving me an opportunity to prove my worth and I intend repaying Jaguar through hard work, commitment and ultimately, results on the race track.
Before that, however, I have a responsibility alongside Mark Webber to support the development of the 2004 challenger and that means countless hours of testing over the winter period. This will also be a very valuable familiarisation exercise for me too as I get to know the car, the team and it's associated partners."

David Pitchforth thanked Wilson for his efforts and said "I cannot thank Justin enough for his hard work and commitment since joining us after the British Grand Prix. Justin's speed, focus and experience are exemplary and our decision to put Christian in the race car in no way reflects upon Justin's clear ability as a competitive racing driver. We are, however, in discussions with Justin about how Jaguar Racing can help with his future career."

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