The team - Minardi Cosworth
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, March 3, 2004 - Minardi Cosworth is today delighted to confirm that Wilux Benelux has become title sponsor, with the Faenza-based team to be known officially as Minardi Cosworth during the 2004 Formula One season.
History - 303 Grand Prix and counting
The surroundings of the Hungaroring pit lane, in late August 2003, may have been a little unusual, but the method of celebration was traditional, involving the pouring of champagne, the cutting of an artistically decorated cake and the organising of a team photograph. That was how Minardi marked its 300th Grand Prix - another milestone in the history of the Faenza-based team, whose name has become synonymous during its years in Formula One with tenacity and opportunity.
Founded by Gian Carlo Minardi in 1979, with the aim of competing in the European Formula Two Championship, the Minardi Team made its Formula One debut in 1985. After spending its first few seasons in motorsport's top category acclimatising to the demands of Grand Prix racing, the team took its first World Championship points in 1989, scoring in Great Britain (fifth and sixth places), Portugal (fifth) and Australia (sixth).
Minardi's best season to date was 1991, when its effective, Ferrari-powered chassis helped the team to claim seventh place in the final standings of the World Constructors' Championship. In 1992, Minardi switched from Ferrari power to the Lamborghini V12. A sixth-place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix provided the team with a point for its efforts during the season.
The 1993 car was designed under the supervision of experienced Austrian, Gustav Brunner, and the chassis proved to be highly effective, fourth place in South Africa, fifth in Monaco, and sixth at Donington and Imola propelling Minardi to eighth place in the Constructors' Championship.
During 1994 and 1995, Minardi entered into a joint-venture with Scuderia Italia. Unfortunately, a series of commercial difficulties jeopardised the team's future and, by the end of 1996, an alliance formed by Gabriele Rumi and Flavio Briatore acquired a majority stake in the company.
The 1998 season marked a turning point for Minardi. Briatore severing his ties with the company and his shareholding being acquired by Gabriele Rumi. The successful Italian businessman, who headed up the Fondmetal group of companies, thus became the majority shareholder in the team and embarked on an extensive restructuring and upgrading programme. As a result, Minardi was joined by new, highly skilled personnel on the technical side, with Gustav Brunner making a return to Faenza.
In 1999, the Minardi personnel line-up was further strengthened by the arrival of Cesare Fiorio as Team Manager and Sporting Director. As in 1998, the Faenza-based team was ranked 10th in the final World Championship standings, in this case, courtesy of a very valuable point scored at the European Grand Prix by F1 "rookie", Marc Gené. One of the most satisfying aspects of the 1999 season was the excellent reliability of the M01, which helped its drivers to 10 top-10 finishes.
The 2000 campaign marked Minardi's 16th year in Formula One, and although the team did not succeed in scoring any points during the course of the season, it retained its tenth-place ranking in the World Championship, finishing ahead of the notably better-funded Prost squad.
The 2001 season marked another watershed for Minardi, the withdrawal of a major sponsor at the end of the previous year leaving the team in difficult financial circumstances. As a result, it was acquired by UK-based Australian businessman, Paul Stoddart, head of the European Aviation Group of companies, and merged with his European Formula Racing operation, based in Ledbury, England.
His plan was to retain Minardi's distinct character in the Formula One paddock, while providing EFR personnel, technical expertise and financial stability to strengthen the team and improve its overall competitiveness in the future. The team finished 11th in the 2001 World Constructors' Championship.
Minardi's 2002 effort featured the all-new KL Minardi PS02 chassis, powered by Asiatech's AT02 engine, a strengthened management team, including new Sporting Director, John Walton, and increased commercial backing, in particular, from Malaysia.
The season opened with a fantastic result, when new Australian signing, Mark Webber, finished fifth in his "home" Grand Prix. The resulting two points turned out to be extremely valuable, as they secured ninth place for Minardi in the 2002 World Constructors' Championship standings.
In 2003, Minardi entered the third year of Paul Stoddart's five-year plan for the team with an improved technical package based around an evolution of the PS02 chassis and powerful Cosworth Racing CR-3 V10 engine. The high point of the season was undoubtedly Jos Verstappen's weather-assisted, provisional pole position at the conclusion of Friday's first qualifying session for the French Grand Prix. Unfortunately, a lack of funding ultimately meant technical development of the European Minardi PS03 was severely limited, however, and the team slipped back to tenth place in the World Championship as a result.
There was one other remarkable event involving Minardi in 2003. It occurred on the Sunday of the team's 301st Grand Prix, and spoke volumes for the contribution made by the Faenza squad to the sport of Formula One. With the inclusion of Marc Gene, deputising for the injured Ralf Schumacher at Williams, eight of the 20 competitors who lined up for the start of the Italian Grand Prix were either current, or former, Minardi drivers - 40 per cent of the grid. The 2003 season may not have been a notably successful one for the team, but that statistic filled everyone concerned with considerable pride.
For 2004, there is a further evolution of the Minardi PS02/PS03 design concept, designated PS04B, with power again provided by Cosworth Racing's potent, 72-degree, CR-3L V10 engine. In the cockpit, Rome's Gianmaria "Gimmi" Bruni steps up from the role of official tester to race driver, and is joined by Zsolt Baumgartner, who becomes Hungary's first full-time Formula One competitor. The feisty little Faenza team enters its 19th season in the World Championship, hopeful, as ever, of a rewarding campaign, but also fully aware of the challenges lying ahead.
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