Villeneuve could quit BAR

JACQUES VILLENEUVE, the 1997 world champion, could quit as team leader of British American Racing after his mentor Craig Pollock was forced to resign as managing director earlier this week.

He currently has a contracted with BAR to continue racing in 2002, but insiders hint that he has a let-out clause allowing him to move if the new BAR-Honda 004, unveiled at the team's Brackley headquarters yesterday, does not prove sufficiently competitive.

Today's launch of the new BAR formula one contender also saw David Richards confirmed as Pollock's successor in the role of team principal designate, but the real story was Villeneuve's body language as the plans for 2002 were announced.

It was clear that the 30 year old Canadian driver was still coming to grips with the news that Pollock, who has managed his career for the past decade, had been ousted from the team he founded in 1999.

"There hasn't been much time for reaction (to this) so it's probably better than way," said the 1997 world champion who sat stonily through a media conference as BAR chairman Kenneth Clark talked up the team's future prospects.

"It has been tough for the past three years and every change has been difficult, but this has been the most difficult change for me to digest. We will have to wait to see whether this is better or worse."

For his part, Richards was taking a low profile approach to his new challenge. "With today's announcements BAR can move forward with a secure future based on strong partnerships," he said in reference to Honda's decision to extend its engine supply contract with the team for another three years.

"For my part, I will be carefully assessing the situation over the next month before making any necessary changes." Quite what those changes might or might not be will be a matter of considerable concern to the BAR workforce as it prepares for its fourth season on the formula one championship trail.

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