BEYOND THE GRID: Paul Stoddart on mentoring Alonso, Minardi’s Melbourne miracle and a special drive with Schumacher
A very special guest joins host Tom Clarkson for the latest episode of the Beyond The Grid podcast, as Paul Stoddart sits down to reflect on his five-year spell as team boss of Minardi in the noughties, and the rollercoaster of emotions that came with it…
The highest point of that wild ride came when, against the odds, Minardi claimed a spectacular fifth-place finish at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix – made even sweeter by home hero Mark Webber being in the cockpit and sending the fans wild.
One year earlier, having just bought the backmarker team, Stoddart faced a battle to get two cars on the grid, let alone qualify or finish, and it was during that 2001 season that he gave future star Fernando Alonso his F1 debut.
Stoddart recalls what it was like working with the 19-year-old Spaniard and when he knew Alonso had what it took to become a world champion, and why he still has the passion and energy to compete in F1 to this day.
In a wide-ranging chat, Stoddart also remembers the time he was driven in a two-seater F1 car behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, as well as the winning mentality Max Verstappen displayed from a young age when he raced his father Jos – who ended his Grand Prix career with Minardi – in a simulator.