AUGUST 20, 2001
Changes coming at Jaguar Racing?
AN explosion is expected later this week at Jaguar Racing with a shake-up of the management of the team looking like an inevitability. That will mean that either Bobby Rahal or Niki Lauda is going to be out. The word in Hungary is that the most likely victim is Rahal.
Rahal was appointed to head the team last autumn by the Ford Motor Company boss Jac Nasser. Not long afterwards Nasser organized the Premier Automotive Group for the Ford luxury brands and put former BMW man Wolfgang Reitzle in charge. Reitzle then argued that if he was being given the brands he should be given control of the marketing as well and in the end Nasser agreed that Reitzle could oversee the F1 program. Reitzle then created the Premier Performance Division and put Niki Lauda in charge. The result was that Rahal found himself answering to Lauda and as the team men had different goals there was bound to be conflict. Lauda's job was to put together deals which benefit Jaguar Racing, Cosworth and Pi Research. Rahal's was to continue to build up Jaguar Racing. The conflict came to a head because of the deal struck between Lauda and Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows team for a supply of Cosworth V10 engines next year. Lauda needs the income to help balance the books but Rahal wants Cosworth to concentrate on Jaguar Racing and not split its effort.
Sacrificing Rahal would solve the problem but Reitzle might not want to do that. Nasser appointed him and remains his boss and he may not want to see Rahal kicked out. Bobby has done a good job, building up the team, despite the setback when the hiring of Adrian Newey went wrong. Nasser will also know that progress is more likely to come from continuity rather than more change because if there is a new team boss there will be new ideas and inevitably time will be wasted. Rahal has shown himself to be a successful team builder and is keen to do well for Ford.
"We have done a lot and we have a lot of very good things now," he says. "But we are constantly under pressure to deliver results and this takes time. People ask me if I feel that pressure but the reality is that there really isn't any more pressure than I am already putting on myself. I don't need someone else's motivation. I have my own. I want to win."
However Ford Motor Company politics may play a bigger role in the equation than logic. Reitzle may not want to upset Nasser and so could side with Rahal. But this would be a blow to his credibility as he would be undoing his own work and as he has ambitions to one day replace Nasser it would not be a good idea. On the other hand Reitzle may be worried that Nasser could turn around and take the whole Jaguar program away from him. There are a lot of voices in Detroit arguing that promoting a small-scale producer like Jaguar in F1 makes no real sense as the program will not pay for itself. The loss of the F1 program would be a big blow to Reitzle's ambitions.
But, one way or the other a decision is necessary as the current relationship cannot continue...
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