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Verstappen talks to Sauber

THE Sauber team is under pressure to produce better results in 2001 and, while Mika Salo has done well on occasion this year, Pedro Diniz has been rather disappointing and the team may be looking at replacing him. The fact that Salo is expected to depart to take up a new job at Toyota leaves the Swiss team with a problem. Giancarlo Fisichella and Olivier Panis are not available any longer to lead the team. Jean Alesi could be a candidate but the last time he drove for the team he left in despair and joined Prost. Jean may be convinced to return (although he is not going to do anything until Jaguar has decided who is going to be Johnny Herbert's replacement next year). If Alesi does not join Sauber the only man who really fits the bill is Jos Verstappen. The Dutchman has done well on occasion this year with Arrows but Pedro de la Rosa has looked better. De la Rosa might switch to Sauber but only if the Swiss agree to fund the deal because his usual sponsor Repsol is not going to be able to find any space on the Sauber because of the team's links with rival oil company Petronas.

Verstappen is under an option to continue with Arrows but Tom Walkinshaw is not sure whether he is going to take it up as Verstappen's qualifying has not been very good this year and Walkinshaw wants an improvement before he re-signs the Dutchman. On paper the Sauber package looks like being stronger than the Arrows next year despite a lot of talk about the takeover of Peugeot Sport by Asia Motor Technologies. There is still no evidence to suggest that there is an automobile manufacturer behind AMT and until there are more details available there are going to be doubts about the program. It is clear that most of Arrows sponsors are happy enough with what has happened this year and although the team is going to lose some of its staff at the end of the year, the main figures in the technical team will probably not change as they are all under contract.

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