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Fiorio goes as Minardi looks to the future

CESARE FIORIO, the sporting director of the Telefonica Minardi team, has left the team as the result of "lack of agreement" relating to the future of the team. The dispute appears to be with Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi who is still negotiating to sell the team to a consortium led by the venture capital firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. The firm is involved in the sponsorship of the team via the Panamerican Sports Network, owner of the digital TV rights to F1 in South America. The company has links with UnitedGlobalCom, the parent company of the Arrows team's sponsor Chello.

Fiorio has been with the team since January 1999. He will be replaced as sporting director by the team's chief engineer Gabriele Tredozzi.

While the negotiations over the sale of the team continue there is still some doubt as to whether or not the team's relationship with the Spanish telephone company Telefonica will continue next year. The replacement of the company's chairman Juan Villalonga has led to a wholesale change in the top management in recent days with a new chief executive being brought in by the new chairman Cesar Alierta. The new chief executive is 39-year-old Fernando Abril-Martorell, a former banker who left the company last year after falling out with Villalonga. Abril-Martorell is expected to continue Telefonica's aggressive expansion but whether or not this will include a relationship with Minardi remains to be seen.

Our sources suggest that the deal will probably continue and that Marc Gene could end up with Fernando Alonso as his team mate next year. The 19-year-old Formula 3000 driver, who finished second in Hungary, impressed the Minardi team in a recent test at Fiorano, lapping within a tenth of regular driver Gaston Mazzacane after only a few laps.

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