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Diniz to Sauber

THE word in the paddock at the Nurburgring was that Pedro Diniz has signed a deal to drive for Sauber in 1999 and 2000. The deal is understood to be worth around $10m a year to the Swiss team which needs to increase its budget in order to improve performance. We hear that the team has overspent this year to the tune of around $5m. The team is expected to continue to enjoy the support of Petronas although the Malaysian oil company has come in for criticism at home for its F1 involvement at a time when the country is in the grip of a major economic crisis. Petronas is hoping to convince the Malaysian media that the F1 program is good for the country and we understand that 20 top Malaysian journalists are on their way to visit Sauber in Switzerland for briefings on the value of the alliance with Sauber. The deal runs out at the end of next year but Petronas hopes it will be renewed. The team's support from Red Bull remains solid but the arrival of Diniz will be a boost.

We also hear that there will soon be two more sponsorship deals announced: one with a major Swiss watch company and the other with Swissair.

Diniz had talks with BAR about a possible deal but we understand that Pedro and Jacques Villeneuve do not get on and that Ricardo Zonta is still the man most likely to get the drive. The current changes going on at BAR may, however, change things in the weeks ahead.

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