Dutchman Jos Verstappen has emerged as a candidate for the vacant seat at Jordan as he insisted he was “very positive” he would be back on the grid next season.
The 30-year-old was thought to be vying with countryman Christijan Albers for the drive at Minardi alongside British rookie Justin Wilson.
But Verstappen – who spent the New Year in Norway skiing with old friend and former team-mate Michael Schumacher – has revealed he is in talks with other teams.
Only Jordan have a vacancy for the 2003 campaign which gets underway in Australia on March 9.
“We know what we are doing and, although nothing is sure in Formula One, it looks good,” said Verstappen, who has been without a drive since being surprisingly dropped by cash-strapped Arrows before the start of last season.
“In F1 everything involves money, but there are other details to work on. We are in contact with all teams where we think they can offer me a chance. The general public might think that we are only talking with Minardi but that is not true.
“We are speaking with other teams as well. That is all I can say, it is very sensitive. We know what we are doing. Although nothing is sure in Formula One, it looks good and I am very positive that I will return.”
Jordan denied before Christmas that a deal to bring 37-year-old Eddie Irvine back to the team as partner of Italy’s Giancarlo Fisichella had already been agreed.
British rookies Ralph Firman and Richard Lyons were being considered as the successor to Takuma Sato, the team confirmed.
The Silverstone-based outfit are looking for a driver who can bring sponsorship to the team after losing the backing of German company Deutsche Post.
Verstappen, who has competed in 91 races, has recently secured sponsorship from Dutch company HMG which could boost his chances at Jordan or Minardi
Albers, untested in F1 but with a German Formula Three title to his name – has been promised the other drive at Minardi if he can raise the required sponsorship.
“Jos is the most talented driver, he is a friend, he is a fantastic guy,” said Stoddart recently.
“This has been a very funny time in F1, where there have not been many drives available and there’s a lot of talented drivers available.
“Verstappen’s management are aware we have a conditional contract with Christian and Christian’s management are aware we’re talking to Jos.
“We have signed a contract with Christian as the second driver, but it is conditional. He has to get his commercial terms in place and that’s not down to him but his management.”
Brazil’s Felipe Massa, released by Sauber following his rookie year last season, is also said to have emerged as a contender for the Minardi drive.