OCTOBER 14, 2002
Will Sato's fifth place save his drive with Jordan?
Takuma Sato's fifth place at the Japanese Grand Prix has opened the way for the Japanese driver to find sponsorship that will keep his drive open at Jordan next year. In recent weeks it has seemed more and more certain that Sato would be dropped by the team to be replaced by veteran Eddie Irvine, who is the target of Jordan's sponsor Benson & Hedges. We hear that B&H is willing to pay $16m to have Irvine in the team. Obviously he will have to take a big pay cut but with the TV money and backing from Ford Europe to help Jordan pay for its engines, the team will just about have a workable budget for 2003. There will need to be a settlement with Heinz-Harald Frentzen but our sources say that a compromise solution is being discussed with Frentzen expected to take a lot less than the amount he is seeking in the High Court in London. That case is due to go to court in January or February next year.
If Sato can now pull in a big Japanese backer he could keep his drive with either Irvine being left to look elsewhere or Giancarlo Fisichella being asked to move aside. One of the big problems for team at the moment is that they are handicapped by driver salaries which were negotiated before the recession began and which are now wildly out of proportion to the money available. Fisichella is believed to have a deal next for $6m. If Sato can pull in a sponsor worth $10m the difference to the team would be $16m and one cannot argue with that...