Honda F1 website

JUNE 2, 2003

The driver market in 2004

The Silly Season seems to have begun with the first serious talk of who is going where in 2004 and initial rumors trying to suggest that there will be an opening at Toyota next year for Jacques Villeneuve. There have also been stories that Ferrari is looking at a long-term future with Juan Pablo Montoya and Felipe Massa and that talks have taken place. Montoya says it is not the case. Ferrari does have to start thinking about one day replacing Michael Schumacher but that does not look like happening in the immediate future as Michael shows no signs of wanting to move on or getting weary of the Formula 1 style of life. The story which seems to have the most legs at the moment is that Ferrari would like to place Felipe Massa back in F1 next year and that after a year testing and maturing, it would be a good idea for the Brazilian wunderkind to go back to Sauber in 2004. The current Sauber drivers have not really being setting the world on fire and having Massa and, perhaps Neel Jani, would be a smart move for Sauber as he would get some help from Ferrari for Massa and would have a quick and cheap Swiss driver in the other car...

There are still rumors that Ralf Schumacher needs to improve his performance at Williams but no hints as to who might replace him except that Frank Williams and Patrick Head have been sniffing around outside F1. It is a little-known fact that the team recently tested 18-year-old Estonian racer Marko Asmer in straight-line aerodynamic runs at Vairano in Italy. Asmer was a successful kart racer but moved into Formula Ford last year. Asmer is being managed by former racer Harald Huysman, who played an important role in the career of Jenson Button, which brought him into contact with the BMW Williams team.

It is worth noting that Sir Frank Williams went to Silverstone in the week before Monaco to see the British Formula 3 Championship race and to take a look at Nelson Piquet Jr., the son of his former driver Nelson Piquet. The 17-year-old is already winning in British F3. And, of course, the team has already given Nico Rosberg a run. Williams's driver bill is currently huge and one way to increase the development budget is to make savings on drivers and as Button proved a new driver can be a good way to do that.