Dutch driver Christijan Albers will race for Minardi in Formula One next season, the Anglo-Italian team announced on Thursday.
The 25-year-old, a former German Formula 3 champion who has competed in the DTM touring car championship for the last four years, will be the first Dutchman to race in Formula One since Jos Verstappen left Minardi at the end of the 2003 season.
"He has always been a naturally quick driver but it is clear there is now an added maturity and focus with that speed," Minardi chief Paul Stoddart told a news conference.
"In short, we believe that he is absolutely ready for Formula One and we fully expect him to surprise a few people this coming season."
Albers, who has tested with both Minardi and Jordan in the last month, was a test and reserve driver for Minardi in the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
"It has always been my dream to become a Formula One driver," Albers said. "I know I have to work hard and stay focused."
Albers has signed an initial one-year contract -- the details of which were not disclosed -- and Stoddart said he expected a long-term relationship with the young driver, a native of the Dutch city of Eindhoven.
Albers's team mate has yet to be chosen. Stoddart declined to give any hint of who it might be, saying only that it would be one of seven candidates.
"The name will be unveiled in January," he said.
Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner and Italian Gianmaria Bruni drove for Minardi this year with Baumgartner scoring the cash-strapped team's sole point at Indianapolis.
Stoddart said that Minardi would have several new sponsors, including a number of Dutch companies while their new car for next season will be unveiled in April.