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Formula One's newest rookie, Patrick Friesacher, has admitted that he does not expect his fitness level to be at the required level in time for his debut with the Minardi team in Melbourne this weekend.
Speaking to Germany's Der Standard newspaper, the Austrian revealed that he expects to have trouble with his neck muscles in Australia, despite having been working frantically in the gym - including an hour-and-a-half on his neck alone - since the announcement of his Minardi deal was made public. Prior to the confirmation, Friesacher has only been expected to fulfil the third driver role, and was not understood to be heading down under with the team.
"I am not yet fit enough for Formula One," Friesacher insisted after his last test with the team before it packed up and headed to Melbourne, "In addition to my neck muscles, which were sore after 95 laps of testing, the vibrations through the steering wheel are far more than I am used to from F3000."
Adding to the rookie's 'problems' this weekend is the fact that he will be learning a completely new circuit - indeed, he has never been to Australia before. As is increasingly the case with young drivers, Friesacher has been attempting to get used to the layout courtesy of simulation games on his Playstation console, and will benefit from a pre-practice tour of the circuit with his Minardi mechanics. Despite the steep learning curve, however, the Austrian is already setting goals for himself.
"I want to finish the race," he insisted, "And, more than that, I don't want to be last."
The only impediment to this could be Minardi's participation in the race, which remains in doubt until Ferrari agrees to sign a waiver allowing the team to run its 2004 car. Minardi will have its definitive 2005 machine - something Friesacher claims looks sensational on the drawing board - ready for the first European round, at Imola in April, and is hoping that its fellow Italians will grant it dispensation to run in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain.
I just hope he can make it to the end, will wait for the 2nd race to judge him. Expect to see him beating Albers regularly.
However expect to see his performance tail off towards the end of the race as the pain sets in.
now that was also someone who was'nt fit enough yet.