Going Dutch for birthday wishes


These days the name 'Verstappen' has become synonymous with Dutch success in Formula One, but let's not forget that in between Jos and Max the country's colours were proudly flown by Robert Doornbos, who turns 35 today.

Doornos was born in Rotterdam on September 23, 1981. Unusually for a future Formula One driver, his first sporting love wasn't motor racing at all but rather tennis. However an invitation from Williams to attend the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix changed the course of his life, with Jacques Villeneueve suggesting he try his hand at single seater racing.

Doornbos was runner up in the 1999 Formula Vauxhall Lotus Winter Series and then moved into Formula Ford, but his initial breakthrough came in British Formula 3 when he was fifth in the 2001 championship. Three years later he was racing with Arden in International Formula 3000 and finished third in the 2004 championship.

He was handed a Formula One test driver role at Jordan the same year, and got his Grand Prix début midway through the 2005 season with Minardi at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim (pictured above), replacing Austria's Patrick Friesacher who had encountered sponsorship issues. Ironically in his very first race he would be involved in a collision with Villeneueve.

With Minardi being bought out at by Red Bull at the end of the season, Doornbos reverted to test driver duties in 2007. When Red Bull parted company with Christian Klien, Doornbos was promoted to race duty for the last three events of the season in China, Japan and Brazil. He was subsequently re-signed as one of the team's test drivers for 2007 alongside Michael Ammermüller, which he combined with a season in the US Champ Car World Series which saw him finish as runner-up in his first race at Las Vegas and went on to win the San Jose Grand Prix, finishing third in the championship.

He left Formula One at the end of the year and has since taken part in Superleague Formula, A1GP and a season in IndyCar Series. He expected to stay in IndyCar in 2010 but that fell through and Doornbos retired from racing and went into business instead.