What now for European Minardi?

WITH Pedro de la Rosa having signed for Prost Grand Prix and Enrique Bernoldi under contract to Arrows, Paul Stoddart needs to find a second driver for the European Minardi team to partner F1 new boy Fernando Alonso. In a perfect world Stoddart would like to have a driver with Formula 1 experience and money as the team still needs more money to make its budget. There are no obvious choices unless Pedro Diniz decided to make an F1 comeback. He has plenty of experience and plenty of money but it is doubtful that he would see a Minardi drive as a good move for his career.

The problem for Stoddart is that all the drivers who might be candidates either have experience and want money, have no experience but money or are employed as third drivers with other teams. He may make a bid for Marc Gene, Ricardo Zonta or Mark Webber but all of them will want to be paid to drive. Webber might enable the team to find some money from Australia but this is not guaranteed. Drivers who might be interested are Brazil's Ricardo Rosset but he has not raced for a couple years. There is also Frenchman Laurent Redon who was Benetton test driver in 1999 but was out of last year. Redon is the son of Josette Zannier, the co-founder of the Z clothing company with her brother Roger, who is also the boss of Kickers, a former Benetton sponsor.

Although often written off as a pay-driver Redon is quick. He won the 1995 French Formula 3 Championship, beating his Winfield Racing team-mate, the highly-rated Nicolas Minassian. He failed to win any races in Formula 3000 with DAMS in 1996 and SuperNova in 1997 but he should not be overlooked as he has many thousands of miles of F1 testing work behind him.

The option would be to go for another youngster and hope that the investment would pay off in the long-term. Giancarlo Minardi often did this, selling his driver's contracts to the big teams once they had proved their worth. Possible candidates for such a move would be Giorgio Pantano or perhaps even European Minardi's recent Formula 3000 signing David Saelens.

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