DECEMBER 18, 2002
Has Irvine signed for Jordan?
The news that Takuma Sato is to be a test driver for British American Racing in 2003 raises one important question: what caused the Japanese rising star to give up waiting for Jordan? Sato has been hanging on in the hope that either he or the team could come up with money so he could continue his F1 career for the planned second season with the Silverstone operation. Takuma visited the Jordan factory earlier this week and clearly learned something that made him decide to take the opportunity to join BAR.
The suggestion that is doing the rounds in F1 circles is that Jordan has been forced to adopt his fall-back plan of doing a deal with Benson & Hedges (probably as a title sponsor once again) and that will require him to sign Eddie Irvine as B&H wants a high profile British driver to increase sales in the British market. Irvine and Jordan have worked together in the past and with Irvine having no other choices if he wishes to stay in F1, the negotiations have been slow as Irvine has been trying to earn as much as possible and Jordan has been trying to keep the driver's salary to an absolute minimum. The deal with Bernson & Hedges is believed to be worth a minimum of $15m to Jordan and so the Brazilians Enrique Bernoldi and Felipe Massa have been struggling to raise the same kind of money. Bernoldi has some backing from Red Bull (as usual) but there are no signs that this will lead to a big sponsorship with the Austrian drinks company, which remains keen on buying its own F1 team.
Irvine has been keeping a low profile, hanging out in Miami, and leaving the negotiations up to his manager Enrico Zanarini.
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