The Etihad Aldar Spyker F1 team has confirmed that Markus Winkelhock is to make his Formula 1 race debut in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring this weekend.

The 27-year-old will partner Adrian Sutil following the departure of Christijan Albers from his seat post-British Grand Prix in what is currently a one-off deal while the team continues to evaluate its longer term options.

Honda test driver Christian Klien remains one of the favourites for the seat having tested for the team during the Spa group test last week, although another Spyker test driver Adrian Valles has been quoted in the Spanish press as saying he could secure the seat for the Hungarian Grand Prix in early August.

"I am pleased to be able to reward Markus for his patience and loyalty to the team over the last 18 months with his F1 debut at the N?rb?rgring," team principal Colin Kolles said. "Markus has been a very popular and respected member of the team and has contributed much to the test and development of the car and I think the pairing is strong.

"It is very fitting that he has the chance to finally race after being the team's reserve driver for the past two years, particularly in front of his home crowd in Germany. I believe that in Adrian and Markus we have a young, dynamic line-up who are hungry for success and will fight to achieve the best results they can.

"At present Markus is only confirmed for the European Grand Prix and we will review the situation once more after the weekend. We are still considering other drivers for the permanent role, Markus is obviously still one of them. Markus already has knowledge of the car from his tests this year and is already integrated into the team so there will not be any installation period as such. He is also very familiar with this track from his previous racing experience. He is quick, professional and I think he'll do a very good job for the team in challenging circumstances."

Winkelhock's chance with the team comes after Albers departed the scene due to 'commercial difficulties' relating to one of his sponsors, but - despite already having a relationship with the Silverstone-based squad, Winkelhock said he was surprised to have been given the chance to replace the Dutch man in a race seat.

The fact that his race debut will come on home soil will provide extra reason to be excited while it will also be a somewhat emotional event for the German with the Nurburgring having been the scene of Manfred Winkelhock's final F1 race before his death in 1985.

"I was very surprised to get the call from Colin as I did not think that I would have this chance!" Winkelhock admitted. "But obviously I am very, very pleased to be able to race this weekend. It's now the only German race on the calendar, so I am excited to be make my race debut in front of so many German spectators.

"I know the track very well from Formula Renault, Formula 3 and DTM, which will be an advantage going into the race as I do not have so many kilometres in the car. Making my race debut at this track in particular though will be very important personally for myself and my family. This was the last track my father raced a Formula 1 car on before he died; now I can make my Formula 1 debut on the last track he ever raced on in F1.

"This weekend will be very special - it's my home Grand Prix, my debut, and I will have friends here supporting me, but I need to concentrate myself on the job and do the best I can. When you put your helmet on and get in the car you need to be 100 per cent focussed on doing what you can. This is a great opportunity for me and I want to make the most of it."

 

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