The Minardi team today announced that it has officially signed Hungarian, Zsolt Baumgartner, as the second of its two race drivers for the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship season.
The promising 22-year-old from Budapest thus joins Italy’s Gianmaria Bruni in the Faenza team’s line-up, both men competing for the first time in a full World Championship season. Baumgartner contested two Formula One events in 2003 – the Hungarian and Italian GPs – when he was drafted in to replace the injured Ralph Firman at Jordan, but 2004 will mark the first time a Hungarian driver has raced full-time in the World Championship.
“For me, Christmas has definitely come early this year,” comments Baumgartner. “The two races I did this past season made me more determined than ever that I wanted to be in Formula One. I have now realised that dream, although I don’t think the reality of it has quite sunk in yet.
“There are many people who have helped me to get to this point in my racing career, but I particularly want to thank Thomas Frank, for his unstinting efforts on my behalf, and Paul Stoddart, for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do in Formula One. I just want to start working with the European Minardi team as soon as possible, so that I can be well prepared for the beginning of the season. It is a huge challenge, but I am really looking forward to it.”
European Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart, says, “We are very pleased that we have been able to finalise Zsolt’s contract at this time. I believe he has considerable ability, and hopefully, the nurturing environment within Minardi, which has helped to launch the Formula One careers of so many talented young drivers in recent years, will also allow him to develop and hone his skills to the point where he firmly establishes his credentials at the very top level of motor racing.”
Further news on European Minardi’s plans for 2004 will be announced early in the New Year Minardi's statement said.