MARCH 9, 2001
Rahal winds up the pressure on Irvine
JAGUAR RACING team boss Bobby Rahal says that if Dario Franchitti wants to move to Formula 1 in the future, he needs to make the move at the end of this year. Franchitti is racing this year in CART but has only a one-year contract with Team Kool Green and so is a free agent for next season. Franchitti has made no secret of his desire to be in F1 and tested for Jaguar racing last year before agreeing to the odd one-year arrangement in America. It was thought at the time that some kind of understanding existed between the Scotsman and Jaguar Racing but with the signing of Pedro de la Rosa to race alongside Eddie Irvine next year, Jaguar has more drivers than it can handle, particularly when one considers that arrangements also exist this year with Luciano Burti, Tomas Scheckter, Narain Karthikeyan, James Courtney and Andre Lotterer.
Jaguar Racing's current problem appears to be that it has inherited arrangements over drivers which were made by the previous management of the team and this may not suit the current thinking in the team.
Eddie Irvine's position is probably the least comfortable as he is being paid considerable money by Jaguar and needs to get some decent results if he is to fulfil performance clauses in his contract. If he does not score enough points his contract can be terminated. This would probably suit Jaguar very well as the company wants a name which is well-known in the American market as this is the primary target for the sale of Jaguar cars in the years ahead. The German market is also important, hence the decision to nominate Lotterer to the Jaguar Formula 3 team.
Obviously Jaguar cannot be seen to be doing anything at the moment but we suspect that there may be preliminary conversations going on between the team and Franchitti about a drive next year. Dario is managed by Julian Jakobi, who is also the manager of Pedro de la Rosa, and it may be that he is offering Jaguar a package deal for his drivers in 2002. "I rate Dario very highly," Bobby Rahal told journalists in Australia. "He is one of the few guys who can run wheel-to-wheel with Juan Pablo Montoya. He is still young enough, but if he is going to come here with any team, it has to be this year."
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