Leaseplan and Minardi

WE hear that Minardi is likely to sign up the rising Spanish star Fernando Alonso with backing from the Belgian finance company Leaseplan, which is hoping to use Formula 1 to expand its business in Spain. It will not be the first time Leaseplan has been involved in Formula 1 having enjoyed a close relationship with Belgian driver Eric Van de Poele in 1991 with the Modena team and in 1992 with Brabham.

Alonso has impressed this year in Formula 3000 with the Astromega team and won the race at Spa. He has also been testing for Minardi and was quickly on the pace of regular drivers Gaston Mazzacane and Marc Gene.

Alonso, who is managed by former Grand Prix driver Adrian Campos, is still only 19 years old but seems to be ready for Formula 1. In the wake of Jenson Button's success there seems to be an influx of very young talent this year with Sauber expected to name Kimi Raikkonen as its second driver within a matter of days and Giorgio Pantano expected to be signed up as a test driver either by British American Racing or Williams F1.

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