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AUGUST 26, 2002

CART no longer an alternative to F1

There was much comparison going on between Formula 1 and CART last weekend when CART visited the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal - the first time the two series have used the same track in the same year. The American cars were considerably slower - largely because of their steel brakes.

There was once a time when the Americans would argue that CART was the equal of Formula 1 racing and that CART's "World Series" was not that different from Formula 1's "World Championship". But the times are changing and now even CART boss Chris Pook is admitting that the series he runs is not in the same league as Grand Prix racing.

"I'd love CART to be a feeder series for F1," Pook told the Montreal Gazette. "My predecessors thought that CART was an alternative to F1 but I don't believe that. F1 is at a level and in class of its own. We fit in somewhere below them. It would be great if we could develop drivers to go there."

There is much talk at the moment that Cristiano da Matta, who is leading the CART series, will be taken to Formula 1 next year by Toyota, although there have also been rumours that da Matta's team owner Carl Haas is demanding a huge sum of money for the release of the Brazilian from his 2003 contract.

Pook reckons that the Brazilian will be good in F1 - if he gets the chance.

"I think it is going to be hard for the F1 teams to ignore him," he said.

Pook's comments are curious given the long-held belief that CART is an equal to F1 but may be intended to see if the series can attract some more of the rising stars of Europe rather than those who have finished their F1 careers - or have never quite made it.