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The driver market begins to move

THE announcement that Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard are to stay with the McLaren team and the expected news that Jacques Villeneuve is to move to Benetton and Juan-Pablo Montoya to Williams is likely to get the Formula 1 driver market moving in the weeks ahead.

As we suggested a week ago, Scotland's Dario Franchitti is going to get a Jaguar test this week at Silverstone, having flown in from the CART race at Cleveland. If all goes well Franchitti is expected to become Eddie Irvine's team mate next year at Jaguar Racing. Although there have been a few rumblings that Ford is not happy with Irvine's performance this year he is expected to continue for his second year of a three-year contract. British American Racing is almost certainly going to have to find a replacement for both of its current drivers with Villeneuve expected to be confirmed by Benetton within a matter of days and Ricardo Zonta apparently bound for a drive with Mo Nunn Racing in the CART series in the United States.

BAR is believed to be talking to a variety of drivers but until the team's money supply is sorted out it is going to be hard to do deals. If Benetton decides to drop Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz one or both of them could end up with the team. Wurz comes with an impressive portfolio of sponsorship which would certainly help BAR's cause. Pedro Diniz is also possible and he has around $15m a year from Parmalat. Another name which is being mentioned as a possible BAR driver is that of Olivier Panis, although he may be recalled to France if the planned Peugeot-Vivendi takeover of Prost Grand Prix goes ahead. The Sauber team could be looking for two drivers and we hear that Red Bull Junior Team driver Enrique Bernoldi is a possible Sauber driver while Pedro de la Rosa may also move in, although there may be problems because of a sponsorship clash between his backer Repsol and rival oil company Petronas, which sponsors Sauber. De la Rosa should also be considered as a possible BAR driver.

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