Who will replace Steve Nichols?

Steve Nichols

Steve Nichols 

 © The Cahier Archive

JAGUAR's announcement that Steve Nichols has been dropped by the team was phrased in typically public relations waffle. The team and Nichols had "jointly agreed that there is a need for the design and development activities of the company to receive fresh impetus and direction", the team said.

Jaguar Racing said that Nichols has resigned and that Gunther Steiner will take over as technical director "for an interim period".

The departure of Nichols was not a surprise and is indicative of a serious problem at Jaguar. The team has no stability. When it was acquired by the Ford Motor Company it was run by Neil Ressler, although previous owner Jackie Stewart kept popping up. Ressler then stood down and Bobby Rahal took over. Stewart's appearances became fewer. Not long after Rahal's appointment, however, Wolfgang Reitzle, the head of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, got control of the F1 program from Ford management in Dearborn, Michigan. He took the odd decision to appoint Niki Lauda to become Rahal's boss. It was not a match made in heaven and Rahal departed in the summer.

It has been a similar story on the technical side with Nichols's predecessor Gary Anderson being dropped after the team's first season. Nichols has lasted just over a year. And now Jaguar is going to have to go out and try to find a replacement. Rahal tried to hire Adrian Newey last year but his efforts were thwarted. Lauda then tried to hire the Williams design team of Gavin Fisher and Geoff Willis. He failed. The problem now is that none of the top men in F1 are going to touch Jaguar Racing because of what has happened in recent months. The likelihood is that this season is going to be a poor one and there are fears that the new management at Ford will get bored with all the shenanigans at Milton Keynes and will eventually wash their hands of the whole program.

There are expected to be some engineers on the market in the course of the next few weeks with rumors suggesting that Jordan technical director Egbahl Hamidy is on the move and that Arrows technical director Mike Coughlan might be available.

One rumor we have heard in recent days is that John Barnard, free since the collapse of Prost, might be about to make another F1 comeback. Barnard has been happily running his B3 Technologies operation for the last few years after a miserable relationship with Arrows in 1998. He is one of the most respected F1 technical directors of modern times and Lauda knows him well as the pair worked together with much success at McLaren in the early 1980s. One can imagine Niki picking up the phone and asking Barnard to help him.

And one can imagine John's response: "How much?"

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