Austrian Formula One driver who drove for the Minardi team during the first half of the 2005 season. He was replaced in the lineup by Robert Doornbos, who completed the rest of the season for Minardi.
Patrick Friesacher raced motorcycles for five years before realising that his future lay on four wheels rather than two. Since then, his dogged determination has seen him patiently climb the career ladder.
Ignoring the obvious attractions of skiing, motocross was a passion for the young Austrian from the age of five but, at eleven, he discovered equal pleasure in karting, and wasted little time in transferring his skills onto four wheels. He proved to be a strong contender in the Austrian national competition, twice placing third overall, before moving onto the international scene. Ironically, given his motocross background, the young Friesacher then suffered a serious accident that left him in hospital for six weeks and a wheelchair for seven after surgery was required to reconstruct his shin and heels.
Not put off by the injuries, Friesacher returned to competition having been selected as one of 26 young kart racers to try out for the famous La Filiere racing school and its Formula Campus series. Once picked to race, he proved instantly competitive, taking four poles and winning at Ledenon and on the streets of Pau to claim third overall in the points.
Convinced by his success, he graduated to the B class of the French national Formula Three championship in 1999, again finishing third overall with wins at Magny-Cours and Val de Vienne to go alongside three pole positions. On the basis of that season, he then moved closer to home to contest the 2000 German F3 series with Bertram Schafer Racing. Finding the series more competitive than in France, he finished sixth overall, but still managed to win races at the Sachsenring and Oschersleben, as well as take three poles and four other podiums. The end of season races in Macau and Korea yielded third and fourth places respectively, despite running against strong international competition.
Now on the books of the Red Bull drinks brand, Friesacher found himself propelled into the FIA F3000 championship, running with the new Red Bull Junior Team. Three top six finishes were good enough for 13th overall in his debut year, and allowed Friesacher to remain with the team for the 2002 campaign.
He moved up to tenth overall that season, having taken second place at the annual F1 support event in Monaco, but a couple of silly incidents put question marks over his long-term potential. Despite the uncertainty, however, Friesacher retained Red Bull backing for a third year in the category, moving with the sponsorship to Coloni Motorsport. Second place in the opening event at Imola was followed by an accident in Spain that left him sidelined for two races with a broken forearm. Despite struggling on his return, Friesacher eventually came good, finishing third in Germany before finally winning an F3000 race, at the Hungaroring to finish fifth overall.
That wasn't good enough to keep his Red Bull support, however, and, faced with yet another year in F3000, Friesacher moved to former champions Super Nova in the hope of reviving his flagging F1 ambitions. David Sears' team was a shadow of its former self, however, and, after struggling for finance, Friesacher found himself returning to Coloni for the remainder of the season. His results picked up with the Italian team and, after several strong showings culminated in a repeat win in Hungary, he again ended the year in fifth place overall.
Despite having been employed by Minardi to pilot its F1x2 two-seater cars at demonstration and sponsor events, Friesacher was not expected to feature in the Italian team's plans until being offered a test in November 2004. From there, he was understood to be in line for the permanent testing role but, when Nicolas Kiesa failed to come up with the finances necessary to secure the race seat, Friesacher found himself being signed up to partner Christijan Albers in an all-rookie team.