DECEMBER 20, 1999
Chip Ganassi's Christmas shopping trip
CART team owner Chip Ganassi popped over to Britain last week for a bit of Christmas shopping, and the word on the street in Formula 1 circles was that he was selling rather than buying. Ganassi has CART Champion Juan-Pablo Montoya under contract for next year but Frank Williams is keen to get hold of Montoya to partner Ralf Schumacher in 2000. Montoya is not being paid vast amounts by Ganassi as he was hired as an unknown driver at the start of 1999 on a two-year contract which is believed to be worth only $250,000 a year plus prize-money. A switch to Williams would greatly increase his income and would also give Ganassi a handsome pay-off from Williams. Our sources say that there is no buy-out clause in the contract although it could be annulled if all concerned agreed on a price. That is likely to be too high for Williams to consider. Ganassi needs Montoya this year as he begins a new relationship with Toyota.
Although we believe that there was contact between Williams and Ganassi, we hear that the American spent most of his time visiting the CART chassis builders, ordering five Reynard and two Lola chassis - to cover all eventualities. Montoya was busy testing last week at Sebring, running the first Reynard-Toyota chassis for the first time, working with his new engineer BillÊPappas. It is also interesting to note that Montoya's manager David Sears was away on holiday - and that Williams was running a pair of new young drivers at the testing in Jerez. The impression, therefore, is that we will not be seeing Montoya in F1 in 2000.