JULY 27, 1998
...who will join him?
THERE was much talk in the Formula 1 paddock in Austria about the identity of BAR's second driver with much speculation but very little substance. The signing of Jacques Villeneuve is likely to scare away any other top-line driver who is serious about trying to win races. Villeneuve insists he does not care who he has as his team mate but there is little doubt that BAR has been put together as a vehicle for the French-Canadian and he will be the main figure in the organization.
One rumor doing the rounds was that the second driver might be his old CART pal Jimmy Vasser. This would be very popular with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who could then have the last four CART champions all in action in F1: Villeneuve (1995), Vasser (1996) and Alex Zanardi (1997 and most likely 1998).
Other names being mentioned include Dario Franchitti - another driver managed by Pollock and sponsored by BAT. This does not seem very likely as Franchitti is still establishing himself in the United States and BAT has a global motor racing plan involving not only F1 but also CART. It is more likely that Dario will remain in the US for the time being and it is quite possible that Vasser will join him in Team Green.
Damon Hill's candidacy is also fading away as there is little reason for Damon to join Jacques unless he is simply chasing more money. BAR might like the idea as it would give them two World Champions which would guarantee that the team stayed in the newspapers no matter what the performance. Such a move would do Damon's reputation no good at all as it would suggest that he is more interested in earning money than in winning races. It is more likely that Damon is using talks with BAR as a lever in his talks with Jordan.
Another name we have heard in connection with the drive is that of Mika Salo, Villeneuve's closest friend among the Grand╩Prix drivers. This would be a nice arrangement for Jacques but there is little logic in the move from Salo's point of view.
It is more likely that the team will opt for a young charger who will be cheap and will not put Villeneuve under any real pressure. The BAR management seems to believe that Renault will be coming back to F1 with a factory engine in the year 2001 and that it will get the deal. This explains the signing up of Jean-Christophe Boullion as test driver and may result in a drive for a Renault candidate such as Boullion or Brazilian racer Enrique Bernoldi, who is currently racing for Renault in the British Formula 3 series. Bernoldi's candidature makes a lot of sense as Renault is planning to expand its operations in South╩America in the years ahead and would like to find a star to promote its goods. Signing up Bernoldi may also bring the team into the running for the big Petrobras budget which is rumored to be arriving in Formula 1 next year.
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