DECEMBER 7, 2003
Pantano on the way to Minardi?
It is a little known fact that Giorgio Pantano was heavily in negotiation with Jaguar Racing before the drive went to Christian Klien. The Italian is believed to have a considerable amount of money behind him and has plenty of experience in Formula 3000 and he drove some very strong races this year. He is ready for a chance in F1.
But getting a drive at Minardi is not going to be easy because there are drivers lining up to get a chance in one of the black cars, hoping to emulate the likes of Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Justin Wilson and use Minardi as a springboard to a bigger team. At the same time the team wants to have a driver with experience and so Jos Verstappen must never be discounted as he does not appear to have much hope of a drive anywhere else. Verstappen has money but his only real choice other than Minardi is Jordan and a deal would probably have been done by now, if there was any likelihood of it happening. Jordan seems to be heading towards a pairing of Nick Heidfeld and Ralph Firman, the British driver meaning extra money from Benson & Hedges, plus interest in Ireland as Firman is also the holder of an Irish passport.
There are many other pretenders to the Minardi seat, notably Gimmi Bruni, who has a deal but hs not yet come up with the money. There are Renault youngsters Jose Maria Lopez and Heikki Kovalainen who are being given test runs by Minardi in the days ahead while we have heard various other names being mentioned as well.
If the team could find money it would probably sign up Justin Wilson again. But the likelihood of that is slim at the moment and so thee men with the biggest pots of gold are the ones most likely to succeed...
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