Jaguar decides its 2002 line-up

NIKI LAUDA has given the strongest signals yet from Jaguar Racing that it will pair Eddie Irvine with Pedro de la Rosa in 2002.

The Spanish driver, dropped by Arrows just weeks before the start of the current season, was thrown a lifeline by Prost but abandoned that deal in favor of Jaguar's one year testing deal, in which a race drive was included.

Eddie Irvine, amongst the top three highest-paid men in Ford Motor Company, has a contract not due to expire until the end of 2002, but he has tested the value of that contract to Ford with frequent unfavorable outburst about its prestigiously-branded team.

To end the speculation about who will be driving for the team however, Jaguar Racing supremo Niki Lauda said: "De la Rosa has a contract to race next season, so he and Eddie will drive next season. He is a very good test driver; all his input is straightforward, very precise and accurate. The combination of him and Irvine seems ideal to me."

Lauda also dismissed the possibility that Luciano Burti's role as number two race driver was under immediate threat. The Brazilian has not shone, but he has markedly closed up towards Irvine's pace in the Brazilian and San Marino Grands Prix after a troubled start.

"Under the circumstances, Burti is doing a perfect job," said Lauda. "The Spanish media keep asking me if de la Rosa will drive at Barcelona, but I keep telling them he will only race if either of our regular drivers gets ill.

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