NOVEMBER 2, 2002
A change of direction for Jaguar
The announcement that Jaguar Racing had signed Antonio Pizzonia and Australian Mark Webber for 2003 did not come as a surprise and the team hinted at why the decision had been made in its press release which gave the ages of the two new boys and the men who raced this year. Adding the age of the old team and one gets 67, add the age of the new boys and one gets 48. The implication in this is that the team wants to have some younger hungrier drivers to help to inspire the team to greater things. Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa might have been experienced and capable drivers but neither appears to have been a great motivator and indeed many a Jaguar man will whisper that working with Irvine was highly demotivating because he tended to make critical remarks about the team at a time when it would have been better to close ranks and take the pain together. The wise-cracking smart-ass may be an attactive public persona for some but clearly it was not enough for the Jaguar Racing bosses. De la Rosa had a very quiet year in part due to mechanical failures, but he did nothing that really singled him out and so his contract has been paid out and he is looking for work.
The choice of Webber is a good one for Mark is now ready to show his mettle in the midfield. He did good things in the Minardi and sometimes did great things although these performances were often hidden because the car failed to finish or something went wrong. Hopefully Jaguar Racing will produce a good car for him in 2003 so he can really make his mark. As an individual Webber will be a big bonus for the team for he is by nature a catalyst, a man who makes things happen. When Webber talks there is no fluff and he is brutally honest - which is just what a team in Jaguar's position needs.
Pizzonia is a fascinating choice. There is no doubt that "Jungle Boy" (he comes from the Amazon jungle region of Brazil) is quick but he is wild and that could mean that the Jaguar mechanics will have a year fixing broken cars as he finds his feet in the F1 circus. He is an affable young man and now has to prove that the faith shown in him by the Jaguar management is deserved. being quick is only part of the package needed in F1 today.
As for Irvine and de la Rosa, the future is far from certain. The available Formula 1 drives are limited to a seat at Jordan and two seats at Minardi. Both teams are looking for money. Irvine will probably end up at Jordan as his presence would attract sponsorship from Benson & Hedges, although there are those in the team who would argue that it is better to go for a fast youngster like Felipe Massa and get the results so that the money comes, rather than getting the money and hoping for good results. De la Rosa would not seem to have much of a chance but Minardi is looking for drivers and if money can be found to support him (which is possible in Spain) de la Rosa might end up there.
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