BAR confirm Panis signing

BRITISH AMERICAN RACING officially confirmed on Thursday that Frenchman Olivier Panis will join the team to partner Jacques Villeneuve in next season's world championship.

Panis will fulfil his testing duties with McLaren before moving at the end of the year. He originally announced that he had signed a two-year deal on Wednesday.

BAR managing director Craig Pollock believes the appointment of Panis will help his young team develop in their third season in the sport in 2001.

Pollock said: "Olivier Panis is an experienced Grand Prix driver, a highly rated test driver and a proven race winner, and we believe his knowledge and ability will assist the team greatly.

"Any decision concerning our driver line up is a complex matter and had to be carefully considered. Ours is a young team and one that has set itself some ambitious targets."

Panis made his Formula One debut with Ligier in 1994 before moving to Prost in 1997. He has one Grand Prix win to his name after victory in Monaco in 1996.

The Frenchman will replace Ricardo Zonta at BAR after the former Champ Car driver failed to impress, scoring just one championship point in two seasons.

Pollock added: "I want to thank Ricardo for his continuing efforts. There are still five races left this season and he can be assured of our support in his efforts to achieve the best possible results.

"He is undoubtedly a talented young man and will always have a special place within the team as one of our original drivers. We wish him well for the future."

Zonta is expected to join Swiss outfit Sauber next season and said that he has already held talks with the team.

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