Minardi to evaluate new drivers at Vallelunga 01 Dec 2003
Minardi have confirmed that they will stage a three-day test at the Italian circuit if Vallelunga next week, with four or more drivers expected to take the wheel of the PSO3 as the team bids to finalise its 2004 line-up.
Among those scheduled to test between December 10-12 are Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez, Heikki Kovalainen, from Finland, and Italy's Fabrizio Del Monte, although there is a possibility the trio may be joined by one or two other drivers.
In addition, one of Minardi's regular 2003 drivers (Jos Verstappen, Nicolas Kiesa, or Gianmaria Bruni) will conduct a technical programme that will include tyre testing for Bridgestone, engine development work for Cosworth Racing, and the evaluation of possible new chassis components for the team's 2004 car.
"This looks set to be our busiest test of the year," commented Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart. "It makes the best use of resources, however, to run what amounts to two separate, but parallel, programmes at Vallelunga, one focused on evaluating a number of young drivers whom we have been watching closely in recent months, and the other, on testing and assessing various components for the 2004 Minardi.
"The driver evaluation part of the exercise is simply a further example of the team's ongoing, and highly successful policy of seeking out the best young talents on the motor racing scene and introducing them to Formula One in a controlled and responsible way. It is obviously an approach that has paid off handsomely, as we saw at Monza this year, when eight of the 20 competitors on the starting grid for the Italian Grand Prix were either former or current Minardi drivers.
"As for the technical programme scheduled for Vallelunga, this is aimed at developing some of the key performance aspects of the 2004 European Minardi Cosworth. Work is progressing well on the new car, and this test should provide the team's engineers and designers with some valuable data that will assist them in developing a definitive specification for the PS04."
Lopez, the reigning Formula Renault V6 champion, and Kovalainen, a leading light in the World Series by Nissan championship, are both members of Renault's driver-development programme and will also be testing for the French Formula One team at Barcelona this week. Italian Del Monte, meanwhile, has been a frontrunner in this year's Euro3000 series.