JULY 12, 1999
Frentzen re-signs for Jordan, Hill ponders future
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN will stay with Jordan in 2000. The team had an option on the 32-year-old German and decided to take it up after his magnificent win at the French Grand Prix . The move would suggest that the team is not going to sign up another topline star such as Eddie Irvine or David Coulthard despite the fact that the team's sponsor Benson & Hedges wants a high-profile name in the team.
Bringing in another star could result in the team being destabilized at a time when it needs to do well. It makes more sense to hire a youngster on a cheap contract and build him up, without upsetting Frentzen.
There were rumors at Silverstone that David Coulthard had actually visited the Jordan factory at Silverstone and the team's windtunnel at Brackley but this was denied by David's management as wishful thinking on the part of the team and as a lever as it tries to improve its political position in relation to Honda. Jordan has a Mugen Honda deal for 2000 and 2001 and the team hopes that if it is successful and British American Racing is not, it could become the Honda factory team in 2002. It is not a stupid policy as BAR is going to struggle to build the team into an effective unit in the time available.
Benson & Hedges might want a bigger star to drive for the team but for Jordan winning is more important and success will, of course, keep B&H happy.
If Damon Hill decides to retire during the season the man thought most likely to join the team is McLaren Junior Team member Nick Heidfeld, Jos Verstappen has ceased to be the favorite for the drive as he did not greatly impress the team during its recent Silverstone testing. McLaren is keen to get Heidfeld into F1 so that he can gain experience but it has not been easy to find a replacement for him in the Formula 3000 team. A competitive driver is needed to win in F3000 to protect Heidfeld's position and the West Competition team is believed to want an existing F3000 driver to do it. We hear that Mercedes-Benz did suggest Australian Mark Webber but that he was rejected because he has no F3000 experience. The paddock gossip at Silverstone is that Czech racer Tomas Enge could be the lucky man as West is keen to promote its activities in Eastern Europe. Enge has struggled this year with the new World Racing Team but showed his paces recently by finishing second at Magny-Cours.