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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 11:24 GMT
Minardi snap up Alonso
(l-r) Marc Goossens, Fernando Alonso and Nicolas Leboissetier
Alonso (c) celebrates a Formula 3000 win
Teenage Spaniard Fernando Alonso will drive for the Minardi team in Formula One this season.

The highly-rated 19-year-old was Minardi's test driver in 2000, when he also finished fourth in the Formula 3000 International series.

He was snapped up by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore for 2001, and will be test driver for the Renault-owned team. But Briatore has farmed him out to Minardi to allow him to gain experience.

Minardi were bought last week by the Australian businessman Paul Stoddart, who owns the European Aviation aviation group.

I hope people will have patience with me because I will be starting from the back row of the grid
  Fernando Alonso

Stoddart said: "We've had our eye on Fernando for some time and we are delighted to have signed him.

"Any driver who can come into the ultra-competitive world of Formula 3000 and, in only his second season of single-seater racing, win at a circuit like Spa, is clearly a bit special.

"He is going to be a great addition to the team, and I know he will help us hit some of the ambitious targets we are setting for European Minardi F1."

Despite those unspecified targets, Minardi are expected to struggle this season.

The team has had to design its new car without knowing until far too late in the day what its engine would be.

The engine they now have, a Ford Cosworth V10 that will be developed by European Aviation, is at least three years out of date.

(l-r) Renault Sport chairman Patrick Faure, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Giancarlo Fisichella and Flavio Briatore
Alonso (second left) at the launch of the 2001 Benetton team

Alonso said he was more concerned about driving well in the new Formula One season than about getting results.

"I know that it will be very difficult to achieve anything notable next season," he told the Spanish sports daily As.

"I hope people will have patience with me because I will be starting from the back row of the grid.

"That doesn't bother me, though, because my only aim is to drive well and finish races. I am not going to get worried about results."

Stoddart has not revealed the identity of his second driver, but he said he would try to sign someone with F1 experience.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 |  Motorsport
Alonso lines up Minardi drive
03 Feb 01 |  Motorsport
Upset de la Rosa to reject Minardi
30 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Minardi saved by Australian buyer
24 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Minardi may have found rescuer
03 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Minardi pledges to race in 2001
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