Honda website
Honda website

AUGUST 4, 2001

Sato's options open?

WITH the BAR driver line-up for 2002 settled, Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis having committed themselves, then it seems that the options for Honda's protege Takuma Sato are growing more limited.

BAR has the young Japanese racer - tipped by many as the most outstanding natural talent yet to appear from his homeland - under contract to the team for 2002, and has suggested that it will take a 'substantial' sum for them to release Sato to another team.

Jordan is the obvious candidate, but EJ's driver selection is already beginning to resemble that of a football manager (in the week when he invested $1.5 million in Celtic soccer club). All in contention for a Jordan ride in 2002 are Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Jean Alesi and Ricardo Zonta.

Adding Sato to the list, and the nightmare of having to buy an unproven talent out of his BAR deal would seem to be the least of Jordan's concerns, although the prospect of currying favor with Honda in the all-important 2002 season against BAR would make sense. It is thought, however that a testing berth with McLaren is more realistic on a one year 'loan' spell.

Whatever, the pressure is on Sato's manager, former British Formula Ford pacesetter Andrew Gilbert-Scott to ensure that Sato's stock remains high. "Our main target is the take the title in F3," he said. "There are four more weekends left, which is eight races, and he has 63 points in hand."

Sato's team manager Trevor Carlin describes his man as 'dynamite' and suggested that he might well make a bigger impression on Formula 1 than Sauber's Kimi Raikkonen, widely tipped as the rookie of the year in his debut season in 2001. "He's good enough to drive for Ferrari, McLaren or Williams but he will have to go where the seats are," he said.