Jos Verstappen had a contract to race for the Orange Arrows team from Tom Walkinshaw. However, just before the start of the season he ditched Verstappen, while the Arrows A23 was built around him, and hired Heinz-Harald Frentzen instead. In 2003, he signed a contract with Minardi. Not the season he expected. So what would it be for 2004? Jaguar, Jordan, perhaps Sauber or stay with Minardi? We know now Verstappen would not return on the grid in 2004 not 2005.
I have to give the note that this article is mostly written about the memories I have from that period. Somehow is the 2003 season the first one I can clearly remember. Perhaps because is started designing for the game F12002 from EA Sports, perhaps it is because it is the year I went to high school, because I had a subscription on Race Report who knows. All I know is that I found it really intriguing the stories around Verstappen for 2004 and eventually 2005.
Before we can dive into his options for 2004 and 2005, we have to go back to 2002. Jos Verstappen had a contract with the Orange Arrows team. The Arrows A23 was built around him and with the Cosworth engine, the package looked quite good. However, Tom Walkinshaw wouldn’t be Tom Walkinshaw to make some weird move by ditched Verstappen just a few days before the season. It meant that Jos Verstappen would not be on the grid. Many Dutchies went mental about it I remember.
Already in February the first negotiations were happening with Peter Sauber for Verstappen at his team. A test was planned to see how Jos Verstappen would perform in the Sauber. In February 2002, he was in the factory to fit a seat. However, Verstappen was too tall for the Sauber C21. I believe many don’t know this either though Verstappen was offered a test contract with Ferrari in 2002. Just imagine what could have been, in 2003 to Sauber as the team was racing with Ferrari as well.
Nothing much happened the weeks after. During the season Huub Rothengatter and Raymond Vermeulen started speaking with Minardi who was look for new drivers. Together with sponsors Trust, Halfords and Muermans. His budget was around 10million dollar. The deal with Minardi was signed in 2003 and Verstappen would be on the grid again hurray!
Fast forward to the Italian Grand Prix, Jos Verstappen openly complained about Minardi, that there was almost no real development happening around the Minardi PS03B. Neither was he impressed of the reliability of the car. Besides this, Minardi purchased many of the assets of the bankrupted Orange Arrows team. With it was the Arrows A23, the car built around Verstappen. In September, Verstappen would test with the Arrows A23, now called in the media the Minardi PS04A. While the team had, high hopes on using the chassis. Only the Push-rod system was used of the cars. Neither was the A23 that much faster than the PS03B. Later in 2005, the Arrows A23 would re-appear on the grid as the Super Aguri.
So what happened after the season ended in 2003? During the last races of the season, there was already contact with Jaguar Racing who was looking for a second driver next to Mark Webber. While Justin Wilson drove the last races for the team, it was not guarantee he would race in 2004 as well for the team. Several articles stated that Jaguar Racing contact the management of Jos Verstappen if he would like to race for the team. And with a budget of 13million Dollar with an extra sponsor In Wilux why not? As Jaguar stated back then they were tight on budget for 2004. Negotiations went far with Jaguar. However, there was another driver looking for the seat Christian Klien. Backed a big company Red Bull.
I believe that on 2 December 2003 Jaguar Racing announced Klein as their second driver. This meant no Verstappen in the Jaguar in 2004. What were the options now? Despite not being happy with Minardi at the end of the season, Paul Stoddart told the 12th of December 2003 some Dutch media outlets he would like it to see Verstappen in the Minardi on the grid in 2004. Minardi was lacking the financial support so the 13million Dollar Verstappen sponsors would bring it were more than welcome. Stoddart stated that Jos Verstappen could help the team forward and would probably fight for some points. If Jos himself would consider Minardi as a serious option?
Was Sauber an option? No, at that time Sauber already was certain about their drivers for 2004. When Jos his management was in speaking terms with Jaguar they were as well in speaking terms with Jordan Grand Prix. Huub Vermeulen and Michel Perridon from Trust went a couple of times to the headquarters of the Jordan Grand Prix team. While Eddie Jordan would mostly be in contact with Michel Perridon in November and December of 2003. Eventually some sort of a deal was made with Eddie Jordan. Around the 10th of January 2004, Jos Verstappen went to the Jordan Grand Prix factory, on invite from Eddie Jordan. Just to see the progression of the EJ14 for the season.
While it was noted that we should not expect anything from the visit it was clear that something was going on. It was even said that Verstappen would test a couple of days with the Jordan EJ14 from the 20th of January on at Barcelona. However, Perridon stated that no deal would be made or sign until he would return from his business trip in the states. The story goes that Eddie Jordan told Perridon the 23th of January 2004 that Verstappen would race for the team in 2004. How much is a word worth via the telephone? Nothing of course, as we would learn all not soon after. A few days later the news appeared “Verstappen will not race for Jordan”.
In a statement from Perridon given the 20th of February 2004, he stated that Jos Verstappen and his management were the one that blocked the deal with Jordan Grand Prix. Because of an extra sticker for a sponsor. The same week, if Huub Rothengatter was not pushing on the personal sponsor, Jos Verstappen could probably fitted the same week a seat and start testing the EJ14 at Imola. Another statement was made that Eddie Jordan was not interested at all in Verstappen. As being more interested in young talented drivers, neither was he happy with Verstappen his weight.
Verstappen in the Minardi 2-seater Muermans and Verstappen Muermans and Stoddart
The first photos of the Jordan EJ14 in the media had Trust sponsorship. At that point Perridon stated that no sponsor-deal was made with Jordan as Verstappen would not race. The Trust logo was seen on the front wing, as well on the mirrors. Later, in April, an official statement came from both parties that Trust would sponsor Jordan Grand Prix. This opened the doors for Jos Verstappen to have a test during the season with the EJ14. The photos of him in the EJ14, in an overall, are well known. However, he did not test with the Jordan EJ14 at all. Later in the season, Christijan Albers did test with the EJ14. There was also a threat of a lawsuit against Jordan Grand Prix and Perridon from Verstappen management due to a contract signed to only support Verstappen in the Autosport till the 31th of December 2004.
What were the options now for Verstappen? It was already February and his deal with Jaguar Racing did not happen. Neither would he race for Jordan Grand Prix in 2004. Minardi perhaps? No Minardi was no option anymore. The team announced Gianmaria Bruni in early December as their first driver. When the announcement was made from Jos Verstappen he wouldn’t race for Minardi in 2004 the team signed the Hungarian driver Zsolt Baumgartner as their second driver. Bruni stated in 2019 that he hoped to have Jos Verstappen as his teammate. In 2003, he was Minardi’s test driver and was impressed.
However, Jos Verstappen would re-appear in a Minardi in 2004. On the 26th of November, he would take place behind the wheel of a Minardi two-seater at Misano during the Minardi two-seater day. Sponsor Harry Muermans invited Jos Verstappen to drive on of the car. A new start with Minardi? Would a 2005 contract be able? Not really, the two-seater drive was nothing more than doing a favour for Muermans. Another Dutch driver that drove another two-seater, Robert Doornbos, would become one of the driver for 2005. However, that’s another story.
So what was it for 2005? Verstappen was a full season out of the Formula One, this did not mean that there were no talks going on with teams in the Formula 1. In September 2004 Harry Muermans told the Dutch press that he was working on a plan to have a Dutch driver or drivers in the Formula One. He mentioned Jos Verstappen and Robert Doornbos. A double Dutch at Minardi or Jordan? Eventually this would happen with Doornbos and Albers at Minardi. Though at that time it wasn’t sure.
There were talks however with Sauber in late 2004, I can’t remember when it was neither can I find more info about it. Have it probably have it somewhere hidden in my massive archive. Now im not sure how serious the talks were with the team for 2005. I do remember that there were rumours that Verstappen would replace one of the drivers during the 2004 season. Eventually Verstappen his adventure would end. However, it would not mean the end of Jos The Boss. He went to one of the best series ever existed A1 GP.