JULY 16, 2004
Pizzonia, Webber and Williams
The Williams team may use Antonio Pizzonia for the next few races. This is not really a surprise as Ralf Schumacher's replacement Marc Gene has done a workmanlike job for the last two events but it has not been enough for the team to consider keeping the Spaniard for the rest of the races before Ralf Schumacher returns, if indeed he returns to F1 this year. There are a number of stories circulating which would seem to indicate that Ralf is going to come back earlier than expected and that Jaguar Racing will not release Mark Webber early - but both should be treated with caution. It is obviously in the interest of the Schumacher management to play up an early return so that Williams would have to consider a financial settlement with Ralf before doing a deal with Webber or another driver. We have heard that Williams might be willing to sign up Giancarlo Fisichella or Nick Heidfeld if they can be released immediately but obviously their teams are keen for a pay-off as well.
At the same time Jaguar Racing has not yet had to face the actual question of whether a deal with Webber is of more value to the team than a pile of money. When (or perhaps if) that question becomes a reality (when all the other necessary deals have been done) it is going to be a more difficult decision. The fact that these stories are circulating only serves to underline the fact that things are moving under the surface and that Williams's goal is to get one of its 20005 drivers in the car as early as possible.
The problem is that time is running out as no-one is going to get into a Williams without having had at least one decent test before making their debut with the team and with the summer testing ban now approaching it may be that no deal can be done until September.
Thus it could well be that we will see Antonio Pizzonia in a Williams in Germany and Hungary. If he can prove himself in those events he may become a challenger for a seat in 2005.
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