Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Baptism of fire for F1 debutant as cars head to Germany

REUTERS , HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY

Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa felt like a passenger the first time he drove a Formula One car -- last week.

It will all get far more serious for the youngster tomorrow when he steps up alongside Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and motor racing's elite for his race debut with Minardi at the German Grand Prix.

In a matter of days, the 25-year-old has gone from the backwater of Formula 3000 to the big time.

He is still struggling to piece together a chain of events that started earlier this month just before the British Grand Prix when his manager called him up.

"I'm not quite sure still how it all happened," Kiesa said.

"He said `I think we've got a chance in Formula One,'" recalled the Dane. "I could hear in his voice that he was very serious so I really thought there was a chance. In a matter of three days I was a Formula One driver ... but even when I signed the contract I didn't believe it."

Kiesa, who will be the third Dane to start a grand prix and the first in five years, replaces Justin Wilson after Jaguar showed Brazilian rookie Antonio Pizzonia the door and signed the Briton.

Until last week, when he did about 310km at Ferrari's Fiorano track to secure his super-license, Kiesa had never driven a Formula One car. It was there that he realized he was not dreaming.

"It was mega," he said. "The car's really, really fast but also so nice to drive. I was the passenger of the car for about two laps. Every time I hit the power, I just touched the steering wheel to go in the right direction. I had no idea what I was to do. But in two or three laps you get used to it."

Now, money aside, he has to hang on to the seat.

"Next year is obviously what I am trying to achieve," he said. "I feel that I have five chances, five races and luckily I sort of know at last four of the circuits ... I think I have a good chance of proving that I should stay."

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