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Klien clinches Jaguar race seat for 2004 02 Dec 2003

2004 Jaguar driver Christian Klien

Jaguar today (Tuesday) confirmed Austrian driver Christian Klien as Mark Webber's team mate for the 2004 Formula One season. Klien joins the Ford-owned squad with immediate effect and will today begin a three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona alongside Webber.

Having never previously driven a Formula One car before, Klien tested with Jaguar for two days last week at Valencia, where he demonstrated clearly his capabilities and potential.

"Christian was in as much control of himself as he was the car," said David Pitchforth, Managing Director of Jaguar Racing. "He was extremely calm, composed and didn't seem remotely fazed by his first ever experience with a Formula One car. His technical feedback was excellent and there is no doubt in our minds about the potential of this exciting new young talent.

"He worked very well with the race engineers and demonstrated increasing speed as he became familiar with the car. Christian's professionalism and brain bandwidth are also very impressive and combined with his application, our decision to employ him as a race driver was based on merit, potential and speed," added Pitchforth.

A delighted Klien, 20, commented: "Knowing that I am a Jaguar F1 driver has made me the happiest man on earth! I have worked tirelessly over the years to get to this point but I appreciate also that the real hard work for me starts now. I am indebted to Jaguar Racing for giving me an opportunity to prove my worth and I intend repaying Jaguar through hard work, commitment and ultimately, results on the race track.

"Before that, however, I have a responsibility alongside Mark Webber to support the development of the 2004 challenger and that means countless hours of testing over the winter period. This will also be a very valuable familiarisation exercise for me too as I get to know the car, the team and its associated partners."

Despite his tender age, Klien already has around eight years' of competitive motorsport experience. He started out in karts in 1996 before a move to Formula BMW in 1999. In 2002 he won the German Formula Renault Championship and this season he finished second in the Formula 3 Euro Series, as well as taking victory in the prestigious Malboro Masters Formula 3 event at Zandvoort.

Klien's signing leaves Justin Wilson's future with Jaguar unclear. The British driver contested the last five grands prix of 2003 with the team, and his contribution was summed up by Pitchforth: "I cannot thank Justin enough for his hard work and commitment since joining us after the British Grand Prix. Justin's speed, focus and experience are exemplary and our decision to put Christian in the race car in no way reflects upon Justin's clear ability as a competitive racing driver. We are, however, in discussions with Justin about how Jaguar Racing can help with his future career."

Jaguar are in need of a full-time test and development driver, but the new 2004 regulations hinder Wilson's chances of winning such a position. Under the revised rules for next season, Jaguar will be allowed to run a third driver in Friday practice. However, that driver may not have competed in more than six grands prix in the previous two seasons.

This regulation could, in theory, still be altered prior to the season opener in Melbourne next March. In the meantime, though, Wilson has said he will be exploring other employment possibilities.

See also: Focus - the rise and rise of Christian Klien