FEBRUARY 7, 2002
Arrows confirms Frentzen
The news is no surprise despite the fact that Verstappen was confirmed as one of the Arrows drivers for 2002 as long ago as June last year. Arrows team boss Tom Walkinshaw has a habit of changing drivers at the last moment and in recent years has done the same thing to Pedro de la Rosa (2001) and to Mika Salo (1999). The announcement will do little to encourage people in Formula 1 to believe what Walkinshaw says as what happens is often different. For what it is worth, on this occasion Walkinshaw said:
"We are at an important stage in the development of OrangeArrows and feel that Heinz-Harald has the necessary experience to help us move forward."
Frentzen had been planning to drive for Prost Grand Prix this year and showed remarkable loyalty to the team, sticking with Alain Prost until the decision was made to close the operation, although he did have talks with Arrows some months ago.
"I'm convinced we will be successful," he said.
There has been no reaction to date from the Verstappen camp but we understand that his contract with Arrows was verified by the FIA Contract Recognition Board when there were first suggestions that Frentzen might get the drive and so unless there has been a settlement (and there is no reason why Verstappen would agree to that if he has a valid contract) the team could find itself in breach of contract - in which case Verstappen may take action. The team knows that this will take months and the only worry is whether or not Verstappen will take out an injunction to stop Frentzen racing in his place. That was done in 1991 when Roberto Moreno was turfed out of Benetton by Walkinshaw, the result being that Tom had to pay Moreno $500,000.