One of my favorite persons in the F1 circus through the years has to be Paul Stoddart. For many reasons, his team (Minardi) was the starting place for different F1 drivers. Think of Justin Wilson, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso but also the dutch drivers Robert Doornbos, Christian Albers and Jos Verstappen (Minardi was the last team Jos driven for).
But why is he my favorite person in F1. Well it’s because he was real passionate about the game. With very few fund he managed to run a great team. Ok, Minardi didn’t score a lot of points (10 in his 5 years Minardi team owner span) but he did manage to do great stuff.
2001 started when Paul Stoddart took over the role of team principal from Giancarlo Minardi. He started with 2 rookies Tarso Marques (later replased by Alex Yoong) and a guy called Fernando Alonso. All drivers didn’t score a single point, but Alonso showed what would come in the later years.
In 2002 Mark Webber became one of the drivers. In his first F1 outing in his own country Mark scored 2 points by finishing 5th. He had a bit of luck (14 of 22 cars didn’t finish or did get disqualified) but he also had to stay ahead of the Toyota of Mika Salo (A team with budget many times more then Minardi did (read that Minardi 50 million vs Toyota 499 million))
A year later (2003) the dutch were thrilled to see Jos Verstappen again in an F1 car. A year earlier he got dropped from the Arrows squad and Paul liked Jos in his time when Jos was driving for Tyrell, where Paul was sponsor. Eventually it was Jos’s last year in F1, but it gave a lot dutch fans a great chance to see him race again. The highlights of that year:
– First place in pre qualification. (Paul named that one of the positives to attract sponsors)
– The great performance in the Brazilian GP.
– The test of the Arrows A23 of the defunct Arrows team, that was rebatched as Minardi PS04.
– Testing for Minardi in a PS01 with Avon tires (which were F3000 tires)
– Sponsor Trust that stepped in when another big sponsor didn’t pay their bill.
His team mate was the late Justin Wilson wich half way through the season transferred to the Jaguar team to replace Antionio Pizzonia.
2004 was again a difficult year for Paul Stoddart and his team. 2 rookies came in (Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni) and did there best. Eventually Baumgartner even to managed to get a point in the American GP. The Belguim driver bas Leinders was their test driver. Because of the absence of dutch drivers, he was my main focus on the circus.
In 2005 the season started with Christian Alberts and Patrick Friesacher. At the half way point of the season it became apparent that Patrick’s sposnors couldn’t pay the money to let him drive. Dutch driver Robert Doornbos was picked up as his replacement driver. Robert who was test driver for the Jordan F1 team jumped in imidiatly and the long awaited double dutch was born. Paul tried to get a double dutch when Jos Verstappen was his F1 driver and he tried tho get Albers also in his team.
Due to a problem with Michelin tires, al the teams running with them were advised not to start during the US GP. Only Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi started the race and that’s why Minardi scored points in that season as well. Paul had a gentlemens agreement with Eddie Jordan not to start to let the FIA know they didn’t agree with the FIA statement not to change the track a bit, so everyone could race. So only Ferrari would position themselves at the end of the warm up lap on the starting grid. To Pauls surprise both Jordans didn’t go in the pits and would just start. The problem with this was that if the Jordans would get points (and it was hard for Minardi to get any points) it would be imposible to get in front of them in the team standing, so Paul had to send his team out. I think he is still pissed if you remind him about it. The “race” was a disgrace. Minardi was to slow for Jordan, Jordan was to slow for Ferrari. Jordan came in 1 round behind Ferrari and Minardi 2 laps.
The “marriage” Doornbos/Albers was not a happy marriage either. Both drivers were completely different if you look at their approach to driving. I think they were glad they divorced after that year.
2005 would be the last year Paul Stoddart was team boss and the last year that there was Minardi. Paul sold the team to Red Bull to create a satellite team for Red Bull Racing, where the drivers can get used to the F1 circus.
Paul later on went to America to form Manardi Team USA with Robert Doornbos as one of his drivers. Eventually Robert even claimed 3rd place in the championship.
Because of the dutch drivers Paul and Minardi got a lot of airtime. A couple of things that i recall why i liked the guy:
– He told what was on his mind. One of the main things for example was the creation of the “Fighting Fund”. Bigger teams would donate money, so the smaller teams could be helped. This was agreed upon, but never took of. He could rant about it.
– He was an emotional guy in a hard world. When Jos Verstappen driving in Brazil it rained heavily. A lot of drivers went of and Jos was in a points position (even Michael Schumacher the rain master) but eventually even Jos went of. The dutch television eventually found Paul who was overcome by emotions. It might have been the first time in a long time they would’ve gotten points and maybe even poduim.
– He knows how to please sponsors. Paul has a little fleet of two seater F1 cars, in which he can have sponsor days and even does some racing with them.
We need more of those passionate guys in the F1. So where is Paul Stoddart.
A little PS! Max Verstappen has started his F1 career at the team of Torro Rosso. This team was name Minardi up until 2005. So Jos and Max have driven for the same team.