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Minardi tests youngsters

THERE have been some curious rumors surrounding Minardi in recent days with suggestions that Flavio Briatore may be selling shares in the team to Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi.

Rumi, the boss of a very successful wheel-making company, has owned an F1 team before. He bought Osella in July 1990 and ran a Fondmetal team until September 1992 when he was forced to close it down. In mid-1993 he appeared at a race in Minardi team gear, leading to suggestions that he was buying into the team. Clearly a deal could not be struck and in the autumn of that year he bought the Casumaro windtunnel in Italy and established Fondmetal Technologies with engineer Jean-Claude Migeot with the aim of marketing F1 technology. After an abortive relationship with Tyrrell, Fondmetal Technologies began working with Benetton in this year.

Briatore may be trying to get Rumi to run Minardi on his behalf with the incentive of gaining control of the team in the long-term. Such a deal would be similar to that which Briatore was offering Tom Walkinshaw at Ligier.

This politicking may account for the delay in Minardi deciding on an engine deal. Current rumors in Europe link the Italians with Brian Hart. Hart has no option if he wants to stay in F1. Brian, however, needs a steady supply of money to keep the program running and, in the past, Minardi has not always been able to keep up with his payments to engine manufacturers.

Minardi is, however, continuing his policy of trying to find talented young drivers. Last week the team ran three up-and-coming stars at Misano.

The oldest of the three was 25-year-old Italian Formula 3 Champion Andrea Boldrini. He has a good pedigree. He finished second in the 1989 European Karting Championship to current Formula 3000 runner Marc Goossens and added the Formula Alfa Boxer Europa title before entering F3.

Joao Barbosa from Paredes, in Portugal, is 21 and another former kartist who came through Formula Europa Boxer. He moved into Italian Formula 3 this year and made a good impression. He is currently being managed by former Williams team manager Peter Windsor.

The baby of the bunch was Argentina's Esteban Tuero from Buenos Aires. Although he is only 18 he is already racing in Formula 3000, having quit the Italian F3 series at mid-season because of a lack of results with the Coloni team. He was named a Minardi test driver in December last year but this was his first test with the team.

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