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Albers signs for Minardi 23 Dec 2004

Paul Stoddart (AUS) and Christijan Albers (NL) hug each other after announcing their 2005 cooperation. Minardi Announcement, Amsterdam, Holland, 23 December 2004. World © VERMEEREN/Sutton

Dutchman Christijan Albers was announced today as the first of Minardi's two Formula One drivers for the 2005 season.

The 25-year old has been racing for the last four seasons in the German Touring Car Championship, but he is well-known to Minardi through his previous testing work with the team, and was once a driver in team principal Paul Stoddart’s Formula 3000 operation.

Stoddart himself was delighted to welcome Albers to the team.

"We believe he is absolutely ready for Formula One, and we fully expect him to surprise a few people," he told a news conference in Amsterdam. "Christijan has always been a naturally quick driver, but it is clear that there is now an added focus and maturity with that speed."

Albers, who signed a one-year contract, is the first Dutchman to drive in Formula One since Jos Verstappen left Minardi at the end of the 2003 season. As well as his experience in Touring Cars, Albers was also German F3 champion in 1999.

He told the news conference, "I know I have to work hard and stay focused, it has always been my dream to be a Formula One driver."

Stoddart also announced that the identity of the driver who will partner Albers would be revealed in January.