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FEBRUARY 26, 2004

The rumours about Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon has made no secret of his desire to be a Grand Prix driver. A few year ago when racing in the junior formulae in the United States Dixon flew to Europe for a secret test with the Prost Formula 3000 team at Dijon. But his career path has remained in America since then although last year he turned up (very quietly) at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and had meetings with a number of team bosses, having been introduced to them by his manager Stefan Johansson, the former Ferrari and McLaren F1 driver.

Later last year Mario Andretti, on a promotional tour in New Zealand, said that Dixon has everything it takes to make it in Formula 1 and said that he hopes that the Kiwi would move quickly and not miss his chance.

Dixon's contract with Target Chip Ganassi Racing runs out at the end of 2004 and while the current rumours about F1 may be a negotiating ploy as he does a new deal for IRL, the possibility of a Formula 1 drive must also be considered.

The big question is which of the big teams would be in a position to offer the 23-year-old something interesting. To that there is only one answer: BMW Williams.

Ferrari, McLaren and Renault all have drivers for 2005 and test drivers queued up behind them. It is quite possible that Williams will have neither of its current drivers by this time next year. The current paddock logic is that Williams will plump for Jenson Button and Mark Webber and that if either deal falls through the team would use test driver Antonio Pizzonia, but it is worth considering that Dixon could very easily be a candidate. He is - importantly - well known in America. Williams's sponsors in general like the American market and were most upset when Juan Pablo Montoya took off to McLaren because he was a useful tool in their marketing campaigns in the United States.

Secondly, there is an easy way for the Williams team to check out whether or not Dixon has what it takes to make it in Formula 1. They can simply ask Chip Ganassi.

Ganassi and the Williams team have a relationship which dates back several years to when Williams negotiated the release of Alex Zanardi in exchange for Ganassi taking the virtually unknown Montoya. That was a deal which paid off handsomely for Ganassi. A second deal after Montoya went back to Williams, to place Bruno Junqueira with Ganassi was less successful but Junqueira was still a frontrunner in CART.

The result of all this is that Ganassi and Williams have a working relationship and exchange information about drivers. Ganassi, for example, will be able to tell the Williams team how good Dixon is in comparison to Montoya.

It would not therefore be a big surprise if we were to see Dixon out testing for Williams in the mid-summer. If that test were to be a success he would then have the autumn testing to get as many miles as possible in an F1 car and would then be in a position to begin racing at the start of 2005.

If it all sounds rather unlikely, one must remember that Jacques Villeneuve did an impressive job when he turned up at Williams from CART back in 1996...