OCTOBER 18, 1999
Honda and BAR
BRITISH AMERICAN RACING continues to chase a World Championship point in Malaysia, but the retirements of both Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta meant that the Brackley team again failed to score and with only the Japanese GP remaining looks likely to go into next season without the benefit of television and travel money. This is worth around $10m a year and if BAR does not score at Suzuka, there will be no money as the list of the top 10 Formula 1 teams will not change again until halfway through the 2000 season. Minardi's seventh place at Sepang means that the little Italian team now moves ahead of Arrows in the list. Both have one point and one seventh but Minardi has scored two eighth places compared to the one scored by Tom Walkinshaw's operation.
BAR currently has only one seventh place but it has three eighth places so if the team can pick up one point in Japan it will move ahead of both Minardi and Arrows.
The lack of success has led to a lot of rumors about the future but chief executive Craig Pollock says that he is going to remain chairman and chief executive. "Of that," he told the British media recently, "there is no question." Pollock admitted that the team was "overly brash" and that the experience of running the team had been a lot more difficult than he had imagined it would be.
But if the team is finally beginning to learn lessons, there is no doubt that Honda is a little edgy about the planned relationship for the next three years. We hear that the Japanese have been pushing for a new contract with BAR to avoid embarrassment if the team is not successful next season. We have heard stories suggesting that while the contract will certainly last for the whole of the 2000 season there may be opportunities during the year for Honda to decide not to continue in 2001. We have also heard that Honda's option to buy the team could be activated at the end of next year if things go well.
None of this has been confirmed but it makes sense for Honda to protect itself and BAR has little choice but to agree as it could end up without an engine if it falls out with the Japanese company.
The early races of next year are likely to be just as critical for BAR as Suzuka will be and while Pollock may be safe for the moment, it is unlikely that he would survive a bad start to the 2000 season.
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