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Villeneuve goes to BAR

AS expected Jacques Villeneuve has signed to drive for British American Racing - a remarkable decision for the 27-year-old Canadian, who is taking a huge risk that the new team will quickly be able to provide him with a competitive car. The switch is reminiscent of Emerson Fittipaldi's extraordinary move from McLaren to the family team - Fittipaldi Automotive - at the end of 1975.

The BAR team has been established with the intention of becoming a stable vehicle from which Villeneuve and his management can commercially exploit the Villeneuve brand, selling the potent image of Jacques the wild-haired rebel. This may be financially very successful but it is unlikely to be a very competitive operation in the short-term. It is unrealistic to believe that BAR will offer him the chance to win races against the vast industrial combines of Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Benetton.

Whatever the case, Jacques and his advisors will be making a great deal of money. The rumor mill in Austria suggested that Villeneuve's salary may be as much as $16m - which is around twice what he was being paid by Frank Williams.

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