AUGUST 26, 2001
Formula 1 2002: what's left?
THE announcement that Giancarlo Fisichella will be racing for Jordan and that Jarno Trulli will race for Renault Sport must be taken as a solid indication that McLaren is not looking for any new drivers. And according to Keke Rosberg the deals are already done for the year ahead.
So that means that all the major teams are now settled: Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Sauber and BAR will be unchanged. Jaguar is also unlikely to change although a new management could result in anything. Renault Sport seems to have settled on Fisichella and Jenson Button, although this has not been confirmed despite the fact that Button has a two-year deal.
Toyota says it is coming in with Mika Salo and Allan McNish as its drivers so that means that only four teams have the possibility of change. Jordan has Fisichella and jean Alesi seems to be under the impression that he is staying as well although the team does not seem to think this is true. If Jean does well in the final races of the year the team would do well to keep him. However, the voice of Honda may yet be heard in support of Takuma Sato. There is no question that Sato is good but it will do him no harm at all to do a year of testing. This will bring him to the end of his deal with BAR and will enable him to be placed in whichever team is better position with Honda.
That means that t the only drives left open are with Arrows, Prost and European Minardi.
Arrows has already re-signed Jos Verstappen but it has yet to confirm Enrique Bernoldi. He has $5m in backing from Red Bull but has not done much this year - except to give Verstappen a run for his money on several occasions. The problem for Bernoldi is that $5m is not much these days and Alex Yoong and Tomas Enge (for example) have more cash available. If Bernoldi is lucky Yoong will join Minardi and Enge will go to Prost.
Prost is believed to have some kind of deal for 2002 with Luciano Burti and wants to keep Heinz-Harald Frentzen. At the same time unless things improve financially the team would like to get some money for running Enge. He is believed to have at least $7.5m and may have more. Unless Burti has a solid contract his place could be in jeopardy.
European Minardi already has a deal with Fernando Alonso and is expected to sign up Alex Yoong within the next few days.