Zsolt Baumgartner will be racing for Minardi in 2004 despite media reports in his homeland saying otherwise.

Baumgartner became the first Hungarian driver to race in F1 when he stepped in to replace the injured Ralph Firman in the Jordan team at his home Grand Prix in 2003 and also raced at Monza when the Brit was deemed to be unfit to drive.

He was announced as partner to Gianmaria Bruni in the Minardi team just before Christmas and, at the time, was quoted as saying that a full-time F1 drive was the realisation of a dream.

However, Hungarian television has reported that Baumgartner's main sponsor, oil company Mol Rt, was threatening to withdraw the money pledged to help the driver into a full F1 season because of his decision to sign for the Italian outfit. It is believed that the company wanted to see the 22-year old line up for Jordan in 2004.

A spokeswoman for the oil company was reported as saying that the initial deal between it and the driver had been valid in specific circumstances and that, following his decision to sign for Minardi, these circumstances had changed.

However, a spokesman for Minardi told Crash.Net that
there was little truth in the rumours.

"We have seen reports concerning Zsolt on various F1 websites with comments allegedly attributed to various spokepersons in Hungary, but F1 teams, including European Minardi, do not generally make comment on commercial issues involving their drivers, sponsors or technical partners," he said.

"We await developments but, as far as the team is concerned, there is a contract in place between Zsolt and European Minardi. If not, we wouldn't have announced him as one of our two race drivers for 2004."

 

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