JUNE 9, 2002
Whispers on the driver market
THERE has been very little movement of late on the F1 driver market for next year with the paddock waiting for the confirmation that Jenson Button will be staying with Renault and that McLaren will be keeping the same two drivers as they are currently employing. Once those decisions are made (or announced) the rest of the market can begin to move again. The latest suggestion we have heard is that McLaren test Alexander Wurz is in the frame for a drive at Toyota after two seasons out of racing.
Nick Heidfeld has also been mentioned as a possible Toyota driver but it seems that Heidfeld is not as free as some people believed, as the Sauber team has an option on his services and thus he cannot simple move elsewhere without some kind of deal being agreed. Felipe Massa is expected to stay for a second season with the Swiss team. British American Racing is expected to retain its existing driver line-up unless Jacques Villeneuve decides that he wants to move somewhere else. With the drivers' salaries likely to come down dramatically because of the recession Villeneuve is not going to be able to get anything like his current salary elsewhere although BAR is committed to paying him the same kind of money as has been the case this year.
There is currently no word on what will happen with Jordan although there seem to be attempts being made to see if another deal can be struck with Benson & Hedges. The problem is that B&H wants to have a British driver and also wants to have a longer deal than is available because of the deal which the FIA has agreed with the World Health Organization to stop all tobacco sponsorship at the end of 2006.
But for the moment at least things are rather quiet.
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