Contract time!

The beginning of September is traditionally a moment at which options lapse and deals are done and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa usually results in a number of announcements for the future. It is anticipated that this year will be no different from normal, although the number of drives still to be decided for 2003 is now beginning to reduce.

Ferrari, McLaren, William, Sauber, BAR and Renault are all settled for next year. Jordan has two drivers under contract and another (Eddie Irvine) rumoured to be on his way there. One way or another, something is going to have to give there. Jaguar Racing has Pedro de la Rosa under contract, and there is constant talk that Mark Webber will end up there, but the recent pushing and shoving at BAR may open the way for a long-term deal for Webber at BAR and so it may be worth waiting to see what will come from it.

Toyota seems to be intent on doing a deal with Cristiano da Matta, and one must assume that either the team will remain unchanged or that da Matta will come in to replace Allan McNish.

And that leaves Minardi - on which much depends on money - and Arrows, which is likely to still exist although in what form it is hard to say.

Floating around looking for work are Irvine (or perhaps Takuma Sato), Olivier Panis, Felipe Massa, a wide variety of test and development drivers and the men who want to break into F1 from Formula 3000. It is going to be a squeeze...

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