Whatever happened to… Zsolt Baumgartner?
Formula One’s first – and only – Hungarian graced us with his presence in 2003, when he substituted for Jordan’s injured number two driver Ralph Firman at Budapest and Monza.
Despite only posting a DNF and an 11th, rumours soon began to circulate that a full-time race seat had been reserved for him at the yellow outfit for the following season. Unfortunately for Zsolt, the deal fell through and instead he found himself under the wing of big bad Minardi boss Paul Stoddart for 2004.
It’s difficult to get optimum performance out of what is essentially a crap car, but the plucky backmarker managed to hang on for a world championship point (Minardi’s first in over two years) at the USA event. Admittedly there were only nine finishers, something of a rarity in modern Formula One, and the guy at the back had his chance to shine.
There were even some cheeky post-race celebrations with a bottle of champers; and it was probably a good thing he took advantage, as it was to be Minardi’s only point all season.
Then he disappeared into F1 obscurity, and we haven’t really heard a lot from him since. He was briefly reunited with Paul Stoddart and Minardi in 2007, when the Aussie decided to resurrect his team across the Atlantic in the Champ Car series. The role of test and reserve driver awaited, but for Zsolt that was about as far as his American exploits went. He never actually contested a Champ Car race, and Minardi bailed out of the sport before the start of 2008.
Currently he’s a test driver in the relatively new Superleague Formula, an open-wheel contest in which the teams are sponsored by football clubs. (For more info, check out superleagueformula). His team is sponsored by Tottenham Hotspur, and they managed to turn 11th in the table in 2008 into a giant-killing second by the end of last season. It seems he’s scored at last.
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