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Maldonado and Albers get Minardi chance 29 Nov 2004

Pastor Maldonado (VEN) makes his F1 debut with Minardi Formula One Testing, Minardi evaluate new drivers. 22-25 November 2004, Misano, Italy. World © Moy/Sutton

Minardi continued their driver test and evaluation programme last week with promising young Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Dutch DTM star Christijan Albers getting behind the wheel of the PS04B at the Misano circuit in Italy on Thursday.

For Maldonado, the current Italian Formula Renault 2000 champion, it was his first taste of Formula One power. Nevertheless, the 19 year-old quickly acclimatised to his new surroundings and steadily reduced his lap times to a best of 1m 11.330s.

"I'm really impressed,” he said after his 22 laps. “This is my first time in a Formula One car, and I just didn't expect such power. This year, I have been driving a much smaller, less powerful car in Formula Renault 2000, and I have also tested an F3000 car, but the F1 car is something completely different. It's amazing!

“Personally, I'm very happy to be here today, because F1 has always been my objective, as it is the dream of all racing drivers. I think I did a good job this morning, and I feel satisfied with my work."

Albers, meanwhile, a veteran of several previous Minardi tests, was as expected quickly up to speed in the car, producing laps in the 1m 11s bracket, before dipping to the day’s best time of 1m 10.800s.

“I have become accustomed to Touring Cars in the DTM, and it's good to be back in a Formula One car, although they remain physically demanding to drive - I can feel it in my neck even now!” said the Dutchman, who is also due to test for Jordan at Jerez this week.

“The team worked really well, but as only eight out of the 20 laps I did were flying laps, there was not a lot of set-up time. My main aim this morning was to show the speed I am capable of and what I can do in the car. I know I could have gone quicker, but considering the number of laps, I think the time wasn't too bad."

On Friday at Misano, Minardi continued their two-seater programme, with Jos Verstappen, Zsolt Baumgartner, Nicolas Kiesa and Robert Doornbos handling the driving duties. In addition, Dutch Porsche racing star, Patrick Huisman, and Belgian F3000 competitor, Jeffrey van Hooydonk, sampled Formula One performance for the first time, both men having brief runs in a PS04B.