The KL Minardi team yesterday confirmed the news that many F1 fans have been eagerly awaiting: hard-charging Dutchman, Jos Verstappen, will join Britain's highly regarded Justin Wilson in the Faenza squad's 2003 driver line-up.

The announcement was made by Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart, at a press conference held in Rotterdam early Thursday evening.

At 30, Verstappen brings a highly desirable combination of undoubted pace and extensive Formula One experience to the Italian-based team, having driven for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell and Stewart in the course of a seven-year career in Grand Prix racing.

The Montfort-born driver's rise to motor racing's top category was nothing short of meteoric. Sensationally quick in karts, he moved rapidly through Formula Opel Lotus, dominated the German F3 Championship in 1993, and found himself debuting for the Benetton Formula One team in 1994, alongside Michael Schumacher, after regular driver, JJ Lehto, was injured in a pre-season testing accident. Amazingly, Verstappen had less than 50 car races under his belt when he started the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix.

Always regarded as one of Formula One's quickest drivers, Verstappen's best result to date was his third-place finish in the 1994 Hungarian Grand Prix. He is perhaps most famously remembered, however, for emerging singed but not shaken from a fiery refuelling incident that marred that year's German Grand Prix.

"I am very pleased to be back in Formula One and to have signed to drive for Minardi in 2003," comments Verstappen. "Up and down the pit lane, it has always been known that Minardi builds good cars and is a strong little team that has only been prevented from achieving its full potential over the years by a lack of sponsorship.

"If you look at the budgets of the top F1 teams compared with what Minardi has available, I think Paul Stoddart is doing a fantastic job. I'm impressed by his plans for the team and by this year's technical package, which looks strong to me. I have been around Formula One long enough, however, to know better than to make extravagant statements about a team's competitiveness before a new season begins. All I can say is that I like what I see at Minardi and I am going to do my best for the team in 2003.

"I also want to extend my personal thanks to Michel Perridon and Trust Computer Products for believing in me and helping me to make my return to Formula One. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Paul Stoddart is equally enthusiastic when talking about his new signing. "This is extremely good news," he says. "The combination of Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson will, I believe, give Minardi the strongest driver line-up in its history. The two of them will provide just the right blend of youth and experience, and combined with an effective chassis and Cosworth Racing's powerful CR3 engine, we will definitely have a much stronger package than in 2002.

"Until we get to the first Grand Prix, in Melbourne, it's impossible to know to what degree the other teams will have improved over the winter and how we'll compare with them. Even so, I'd like to think Minardi could be the 'breakthrough team' of 2003."