JULY 27, 2001
What now for Jordan?
JORDAN's extraordinary decision to fire Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the week before the Germany Grand Prix has not gone down well with the team's German sponsors Deutsche Bank (and its subsidiaries Danzas and DHL). Frentzen and Jordan are now in legal action and so neither side is saying anything of value about exactly what happened between them.
Ultimately, the fall out was almost certainly not something that was planned and seems to have been an explosive exchange between Eddie Jordan and Frentzen. The big question now is what Jordan is going to do to replace Frentzen. The team's test driver Ricardo Zonta has taken over the time being but the feeling within the team is that it would probably be better to hire a new driver who will then continue next year. There has been no shortage of speculation about who Jordan might go for with the names of Giancarlo Fisichella, Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso all being mentioned. It is unlikely that the team would go for a driver without current racing experience (such as Takuma Sato) because of the need to have two cars running competitively next year.
Fisichella wants to join Jordan but the problem is that Jordan will not want to run two Italians. It is possible that Fisichella and Jarno Trulli could switch jobs at the end of the year but this does not help Jordan in the short term.
Button might be happy to leave Benetton and move to the more competitive Jordan but such a deal would involve the unstitching of Jenson's Benetton deal. Such a move would save the French team money as the team could take on test driver Mark Webber (who would be cheaper than Button) and there would have to some form of settlement from Jordan as well. The problem with Button is that Frank Williams has first option on his services in 2003 and so Jordan could only really look at an 18-month deal. It is also doubtful whether Button would want to move from a factory operation like Benetton to Jordan which has no long-term security beyond the end of the current Honda engine deal.
Heidfeld would be an interesting choice for Jordan because he would keep the Germans happy. He has a contract at Sauber but has been somewhat overshadowed by Kimi Raikkonen and Peter Sauber might be willing to let him go if there was a sensible amount of money attached to the deal. But as Jordan does not like parting with money that is probably not going to happen.
Fernando Alonso is another option. His career is controlled by Flavio Briatore (as are Trulli and Fisichella) and he is under contract to Minardi. The Anglo-Italian team is keen to keep Alonso as finding a competitive replacement would not be easy but money might help to persuade Paul Stoddart that he can afford to let Alonso go.
Whatever the case nothing is going to happen very quickly unless Jordan and Frentzen settle their legal difficulties because neither party is in a position to sign anything else. Frentzen cannot sign a deal for 2002 as he is claiming that Jordan will have to pay him for next year as well.
The big danger now for the team is that Jarno Trulli will find somewhere to go next year, leaving the team without a driver who knows the operation.
Our sources also suggest that within the team there was considerable resistance to Jordan's decision to dump Frentzen and that this may have long-term repercussions with other members of the hierarchy.
Whatever the case, there is likely to be a lot of negotiating going on on the team owners yachts in the Cote d'Azur and Sardinia in the weeks ahead.
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