Minardi sign contract with Albers

EUROPEAN MINARDI have signed a contract with Christijan Albers that could see the young Dutchman become a test and reserve driver -- and even land a full-drive in the future.

Albers drove for Minardi team-boss Paul Stoddart's Formula 3000 team European Racing last year and he has renewed links with the Australian businessman by signing the Minardi deal.

"This is a good step for my racing career," Albers said. "My ultimate aim, like most young drivers, is to be in Formula One and it's great to have this arrangement in place with European Minardi.

"I know a lot of the people there and feel it is going to be a strong team. I am aiming to broaden my racing experience this season and am therefore working on drives in a couple of international series.

"I really hope there will be an opportunity during this year, however, to do some testing for European Minardi. I'm sure it would be a wonderful experience."

Albers is the fifth driver to be contracted to Minardi with Grand Prix drivers Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques being joined by F3000 contenders Andrea Piccini and David Saelens.

Stoddart said: "We are trying to 'fast-track' the team's route to increased competitiveness in Formula One while also setting down strong foundations for the future.

"It is clear that young drivers are being snapped up by Grand Prix teams at increasingly early stages in their racing careers and signed to contracts. We know Christijan well from running him in our Formula 3000 team last season and rate him very highly.

"Although everyone at our operations in Faenza and Ledbury is necessarily focused at the moment on preparing for the coming season, we decided it would be wise investment for the team's future to sign Christijan to preliminary Formula One contract.

"What this means in practical terms is that he is free to compete in other racing categories this year, but that we have first call on his services in Formula One, should they be required.

"The logical place for any young Grand Prix aspirant to start is as a test driver, since it provides an ideal opportunity to accumulate track mileage and get to know the team and how it works.

"With that knowledge under his belt, he should then be able to make the step up to full-time Formula One driver relatively easily."

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