Webber-Minardi rumors grow

THE announcement of Mark Webber as team mate to the well-funded Alex Yoong with the recently renamed KL Minardi team is becoming the subject of much speculation as the final places in the 2002 Formula 1 driver market shake down and the testing season begins.

Webber, the Australian who was a contender for the 2001 FIA Formula 3000 title for much of the season, has been tipped by fellow countryman Peter Hackett after he tested for the Minardi team's sister F3000 outfit. Hackett said: "It looks like Mark will drive the Minardi as an Australian company, yet to be announced, is going to sponsor the car."

Webber raced for the Benetton junior team in 2001 with some backing from brewery giant Foster's, which has a long association with F1. Minardi boss Paul Stoddart - another Australian - has been angling for the services of both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jos Verstappen depending upon the outcome of the Arrows team's internal politics but may well have opted for Webber if he can bring a reasonable budget to the team as well as his proven race pace.

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