Minardi is probably one of the few teams in the rich history of the Formula One with plenty of rumoured drivers to drive for the team. Even more rumoured are the takeovers of the Minardi F1 Team. As to quote Paul Stoddart in 2005 “Over 40 groups were interested in taking over Minardi”. Let’s uncover history and see the almost driver moves for Minardi.
1984 – Minardi M184 Debut with Alessandro Nannini (Source)
After a couple of private entries Gian Carlo Minardi felt it was about time to debut his Formula 3000 team in the Formula One. Therefore, in 1984 Minardi decided to abandon the lower divisions and focus their efforts on the F1 debut. Caliri designed the Minardi M184. The M184 was build around the new Alfa-Romeo Supercharged V8 engine. It was planned to debut the car during the Italian Grand Prix in 1984 held at Monza. Alessandro Nannini would debut the car. Sadly, Alfa-Romeo did not supply the team with the needed engines as Carlos Chiti had left to company to start his own Motori Moderni.
1985 – Alessandro Nannini
In 1985 Minardi made their Formula One debut with PierLuigi Martini behind the wheel. What many don’t know is that Nannini was in favour of Minardi to debut their M185. The reason Nannini wasn’t able to drive is for the fact that his Super License, some say more was happening on the background, was refused by the FIA.
1986 – Philippe Streiff
Philippe Streiff had two options for a drive in 1986 at the end of the 1985 season. Minardi and Tyrrell were interested. Streiff already did one Grand Prix for Tyrrell in 1985, while Minardi was a new team. Streiff eventually choose for the drive at Tyrrell, even though it has been said was close to sign the deal with Minardi.
1987 – John Graham
Canadian Sportscar driver John Graham was in the row to drive for Minardi. It has been said it was for a couple fo races in 1987, not the full season. Graham would never appear in a Minardi, probably because of some sponsoring issues as well he got very ill for a period of time, which loose him his seat at Minardi as well.
1988 – Stefano Modena
Stefano Modena had his first taste with an Formula One car in 1987, when he drove the last race of the season for the Brabham team. For 1988 Modena was looking for a full season drive. He tested in pre-season with the Benetton B188 before Ferrari offered him a Test contract. The same time Modena was in front row for a seat at Minardi. However he ended up with a seat at the new EuroBrunn team.
1988 – Josele Garza
Mexican Josele Garza tested in late 1987 with the Brabham before he would take place a couple of months later in the Minardi M188. Garza was in negotiations with some teams in the Formula One for a seat. One of them was Minardi, who showed some interest in Garza. He came close to race for Minardi but a lack of financial backing he did not make his debut. However, Garza got a second attempt to make it’s debut. During the Belgium Grand Prix held at SPA he was in line to replace Pier Luigi Martini, who had a F3000 race at Birmingham.
– Emerson Fittipaldi
Emerson Fittipaldi was driving during the 1989 season in the American CART series for Patrick Racing.
He would win the title at the end of the year, in between the season Fittipaldi received an offer from Minardi to replaced Martini for the Japanese Grand Prix. Wouldn’t that have been great? Despite Emerson would become champion in the CART series, Bernie Ecclestone didn’t believe in Fittipaldi’s racing qualities for the Formula One. Instead, Paolo Barilla would replace Martini for the Japanese Grand Prix.
– Paul Stewart
Paul Stewart, the son of Sir Jackie Stewart, was rumoured to have a drive with the Minardi Team in 1994. It was said he came close to a deal but somehow the deal felt in parts. Paul wasn’t new in the F1 he tested in 1990 with the Benetton B190 and in 1993 with the Footwork.
1994 – Andrea de Cesaris
In late 1993 the rumours appeared that Andrea de Cesaris was close to sign a deal to drive for the team in 1994. In this period Minardi showed some pretty good results. However, de Cesaris ended up with a couple of races for the Jordan team before he would move to Sauber and end his F1 career for the Swiss team.
1994 – Marco Werner
Marco Werner was in line for a drive with Minardi in 1994.
1996 – Ricardo Rosset
Ricardo Rosset was in favour of one of the seat for 1996. Rosset showed his talent already in the lower autosport devision with some good results. Rosset had to compete with Tarso Marques, and Marques would get the seat because he brought more money to the team.
1996 – Taki Inoue
Taki Inoue drove in 1994 the Japanese Grand Prix, and was one of the drive of the Footwork team in 1995. For 1996, Taki Inoue signed the deal with Minardi. He even appeared on the team’s presentation photos. Sadly, his sponsors did not come with the amount of money they promised. Giancarlo Fisichella would replace Inoue eventually.
1997 – Pedro Diniz
From pay driver to a decent driver, it’s probably how you can describe Pedro Diniz his Formula One career. In 1996, he drove for the Ligier team and started to show some good results. For 1997 he was looking for a new team, one of the teams was Minardi. Eventually Diniz would choose for the Arrows team for 1997. Diniz came even close in 2000 to replace Eddie Irvine at Ferrari.
1998 – Tom Kristensen (Source)
Tom Kristensen tested a couple of times with the Minardi M197. In 1998 he tested a couple of times with Minardi and Tyrrell. During the season Minardi offered Kristensen a deal, if he could pay an X amount of money. Kristensen could not come up with the money asked.
1998 – Pedro de la Rosa (Source)
Pedro de la Rosa was in speaking terms in late 1997 / early 1998 to become one of Minardi’s drivers. Minardi was looking for a talent and as fresh Formula Nippon champion de la Rosa was a good candidate to look at. As well the Spanish oil company, Repsol backed Pedro with the needed Pesetas. Eventually Pedro de la Rosa would test with the Jordan 198 later in the season and would drive for the Arrows team in 1999.
1998 – Tarso Marques
Minardi had an option on Tarso Marques to keep him as their driver for 1998. In 1997 Marques was already in one of their cars. Compared to Ukyo Katayama he showed some decent results. For 1998 he would not drive for the team. Shinji Nakano and Esteban Tuero would fill the spots. However, in 2001 he would make his comeback on the grid with Minardi.
1999 – Gonzalo Rodríguez (Source)
Gonzalo Rodríguez was in line to be one of Minardi’s drivers in 1999 after Esteban Tuero disappeared from the world, it seemed. Marc Gené was already confirmed as one of the drivers for the team. Due to a lack of financial backing, Gonchi did not make his Formula One debut in 1999. Sadly, he would die during a horrible accident at Laguna Sega with in the CART series.
1999 – Shinji Nakano (Source)
Shinji Nakano was said to be in speaking terms with the team for a drive in 1999 as well. In 1998 he scored some decent top 10 results, in today’s F1 counting he would have scored 13 points! However, the favour went to Luca Badoer and Marc Gené.
1999 – Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld
Some interesting moves happened in early 1999. Both Juan Pablo Montoya (test driver Williams) and Nick Heidfeld (test driver McLaren) were said to drive for Minardi in 1999. Both teams wanted their protégés to get some Grand Prix experience to make them ready for the near future. Minardi was the team they said it had to happen. For unknown reason this never happened.
1999 – Ricardo Zonta (source)
Ricardo Zonta was also linked for a seat at the Minardi team in 1999. Because of his link with Mercedes. Eventually Zonta would end up at Jordan, BAR and Toyota.
1999 – Tarso Marques
For 1999 Tarso Marques was said at some point to make his comeback with Minardi in 1999. Eventually it did not happen due a lack of finance backing.
– Ricardo Rosset (Source)
Three years after Ricardo Rosset came close to race for Minardi, Minardi again showed intered in the Brazilian. Rosset’s budget was $5million. Sadly for him it was not enough to get the seat at Minardi.
1999 – Jos Verstappen (Source)
In 1999 Jos Verstappen was busy testing the Honda RA099, Honda’s project to enter the Formula One in 2000. In April Luca Badoer broke his wrist leaving Minardi with an empty seat for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Verstappen was asked to race for the team in Brazil. While Verstappen was allowed to race, he declined the offer from Minardi. As he had to test the Monday after the race with the Honda.
1999 – Jos Verstappen (2)
After Jos Verstappen left the Stewart team during the 1998 season, there was a widely spread rumour that Jos Verstappen was close to sign a deal with the Minardi team to be their first driver in 1999. To add more fuel on the fire Cesare Fiorio announced that he wanted Verstappen at Minardi in 1999. Moreover because Verstappen drove already with the improve Ford engine, which Minardi would have in 1999 as well.
1999 – Mika Salo
For 1999 Mika Salo was without a seat. Eventually Minardi came towards Salo if he was able to replace Luca Badoer at Brazil after he broke his wrist. Mika also declined the offer. Only to accept a couple of weeks later the offer from Ferrari to replace Michael Schumacher who broke his ankle during a crash at Silverstone. He almost won a race!
2000 – Norberto Fontana (Source)(Source)
Norberto was also in line to become one of Minardi’s drivers for 2000. This after he tested successfully with the Minardi in late December 1999. His last race was back in 1997 with Sauber. Fontana did not get the seat for 2000.
– Max Wilson (Source)
Max Wilson was almost certain to drive for Minardi in 2000 after he was Williams test driver the previous years. However, due a lack of financial backing he saw his seat, last minute, going to Argentinian Gastón Mazzacane.
2000 – Stéphane Sarrazin (Source Source)
Stéphane Sarrazin replaced the injured Luca Badoer during the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1999. Though he did not finish the race, he gave the team a good impression of his qualities as driver. For 2000, Sarrazin was in frame to become one of the drivers.
2000 – Bruno Junqueira
Bruno Junqueira and Jenson Button were in a race to become one of the BMW Williams F1 team’s drivers. Both Junqueira and Button went head-to-head in a specially arranged test at Jerez and Barcelona in January to replaced Alex Zanardi.
2001 – Pedro Diniz (Source)
Pedro Diniz had a disastrous season in 2000 with Sauber scoring no points at all. Diniz came in interest of Minardi to be one of their drivers in 2001. However, in mid October 2000 Diniz told the media he wasn’t to drive for the team in 2001. Instead he would become part of Prost Grand Prix’s management team. He even tried to establish Diniz Grand Prix.
– Nigel Mansell
It has been said that Nigel Mansell was looking to make a comeback in 2001 at the age of 48! Mansell drove a couple of times with the Minardi X2 seater. The story goes that there have been talks between Paul Stoddart and Nigel Mansell of a comeback.
2001 – Esteban Tuero
In August 2001 rumors appeared in the media that Esteban Tuero would make his comeback in 2001 by Replacing Tarso Marques. Tuero left the Formula One at the end of 1998, why no one knows exactly. As he did a good job with the Minardi in back then.
2001 – Johnny Herbert
Herbert was rumored to take place at Minardi together with Fernando Alonso In 2001. Stoddart wanted an experienced driver next to rookie Alonso. While Herbert planned to drive in CART series, but wasn’t able to close a deal, Minardi came on the road. They never ended up with a deal.
2001 – Nicolas Minassian (Source)
Jos Verstappen was the main tester for the Honda RA099 project. However, Nicolas Minassian tested the Honda RA099 as well back in 1999. Two years earlier, with a broken hand, he tested with Williams as well. He showed some good results in other race divisions and so he came in contact with Minardi at the end of 2000. Serious negotiations were going on. However, in the end Minassian would not race with the Minardi PS01.
2001 – Gianni Morbidelli (source Source)
Four year after Morbidelli drove his last race with Sauber, Gianni was able to race once more in the Formula One, this time with the Minardi team who was just saved by Paul Stoddart. While Morbidelli showed in previous years he is a decent driver he did not get the seat. For the simple fact that Tarso Marques brought more money in.
2001 – Pedro de la Rosa (Source)
In February 2001 Pedro de La Rosa as linked with Minardi for one of their available seats. After de la Rosa got kicked out by Arrows team Boss Tom Walkinshaw, in favour of Enrique Bernoldi, he was in search for another drive. While Paul Stoddart just saved Minardi with the wish to bring Minardi in the mid-field in the years coming. Pedro would be a good choice for the team. However, as happened with many drivers he wasn’t able to bring enough money.
2001 – Enrique Bernoldi
Red Bull sponsored Enrique Bernoldi for a while in his career, especially Arrows was interested in the dollars he would bring in the Formula One. Bernoldi would become Verstappen’s teammate in 2001. However, Bernoldi had in late 2000 serious talks with Minardi.
2001 – Christijan Albers (Source)
In 2001 Albers was linked to the Minardi team after Paul Stoddart took over the team. Stoddart was Albers’s his team manager at the Arrows F3000 team in 2000. Albers told the dutch media that he was on the short list to fill in the second seat at the team. However Albers would turn out to be Minardi’s test driver in 2001. Eventually in 2001 he became big in DTM and made his F1 debut, with Minardi in 2005.
2002 – David Saelens (Source)
David Saelens drove in 2001 in the F3000 for the European Minardi Junior Team. In late 2001 David tested with the Minardi at Misano. However Saelens would not make his debut in the Formula One with Minardi.
2002 – Narain Karthikeyan (Source)
Narain Karthikeyan was in the race to follow up Fernando Alonso in 2002 together with Mark Webber. As Narain was the first indian driver at all driving aroun din an F1 car in 2001, Paul Stoddart believed that Narain could be a good commercial potentional for the team.
2002 – Bryan Hertha
Bryan Hertha was in serious talks with Paul Stoddart to be one of the drivers in 2002.
– Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson drove in 2003, next to Verstappen, the first half of the 2003 season before he left for a seat at Jaguar. However, Justin Wilson is said to had a contract the last couple races of 2002 replacing Alex Yoong. When Wilson went to the factory in Faenza to fit his seat the team figured out that Wilson was to large for the Minardi PS02 cockpit. The deal was plunged.
2003 – Christijan Albers (Source)
While Albers attempt to appear on the grid in 2001 failed, in 2003 backed by Lost Boys and several other Dutch Sponsors he tried a second attempt. He came close in 2003 to drive for Minardi. However, Verstappen’s budget backed by Trust was bigger.
2003 – Alex yoong
Alex Yoong was one of the drivers in 2002 for the Minardi team. However was replaced by Anthony Davidson during the season due poor performance. While Young was linked for the Minardi seat again in 2003, Paul Stoddart stated that there was no place for Young in 2003.
2004 – Jos Verstappen (Source)
In late December 2003 Paul Stoddart told the Media that he wanted to keep Jos Verstappen in his Line up for 2004. The same time Verstappen was in negotiations with Jordan Grand Prix and the Jaguar Racing team. During the season Ruud Wildschut, owner of Wilux, asked Verstappen as well if he was interested to take place in the PS04, replacing Bruni.
– Ryan Briscoe
Ryan Briscoe was in talks with Minardi for a seat in 2004. Zsolt Baumgartner was the other candidate for the seat that was left. As Baumgartner had substantial a bigger sponsor budget he was chosen.
– Nicolas Kiesha (Source)
In 2005 Kiesha was in line to become the second driver for the Minardi team. Sadly for Kiesha he wasn’t able to continue his F1 dream that started in 2003. He would not end up at the grid in 2005.
2005 – Patrick Friesacher
In February 2005 the news appeared of Patrick Friesacher was close with a deal for the Minardi F1 Team.
– Zsolt Baumgartner (Source)
Zsolt Baumgartner was next to GianMaria Bruni one of the driver for the Minardi team in 2004. Besides the amount of money Baumgartner brought with him, he did some decent driving with the Minardi PS04 (basically the Arrrows A22), even scoring a point during the European Grand Prix. In December of that year Paul Stoddart was looking to keep Zsolt Baumgartner for 2005, ofcourse he had to bring again an amount of money to the team.
2005 – Gian Maria Bruni (Source)
in 2004 Bruni was one of the drivers for the Minardi team, he showed his talent by the small Italian team, however it was not clear if he would stay in 2005 as well. It was knows that Albers would be one of the drivers, for the second spot there were several drivers available. Bruni was in the race teo be one of the drivers, until January 2005 when he wasn’t able to gain enough sponsorship. Instead Bruni would race in the GP2 series that year.
2005 – Jos Verstappen (Source Source)
Yes, also in 2005 Paul Stoddart was keen to contract Jos Verstappen for Minardi. While Verstappen drove his last race in 2003 with the PS03B, and he was in speaking terms with Jaguar, Jordan and Sauber for 2004 he did not arrive on the grid. In late 2004 Stoddart was looking for Verstappen as well. It has been said that Verstappen was close to make a deal with the Minardi team.
2005 – Franck Montagny (Source)
For 2005 there was a period that Franck Montagny, Renault test driver at that time, and Paul Stoddart were in negotiations for a drive in 2005. Stoddart even said in December 2004 that he would like it to see Montagny next to Albers in the car.
– Giorgio Pantano (Source)
Giorgio Pantano, according to media, was in speaking terms for a drive in 2005 with Minardi. In 2004 he was the driver for the Jordan team, but during the season he was replaced because his sponsors didn’t came with the money.