NOVEMBER 2, 1998
Good news at BAR
BRITISH AMERICAN RACING has finally confirmed that Ricardo Zonta is to be Jacques Villeneuve's partner next season and the announcement - which had been delayed because of the branding problems encountered by the team in recent weeks - suggests that a solution has been found between the various BAT companies involved in BAR.
There have, however, been victims along the way with BAT's communications manager David Bacon having been replaced as a result of the recent problems.
Things do appear to be settling down a little and the focus has switched away from the team's somewhat clumsy political approach to the engineering side of the business, which is looking stronger. Whether or not BAT continues with its plan to take legal action against Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA remains to be seen but there are many in the paddock who feel it would be a disastrous thing to do. It has not helped that the team has run into conflict with Ecclestone over the booking of hotels for the Chinese GP.
Villeneuve and Zonta are expecting to test the first Reynard-built BAR 199 chassis in December although our sources tell us that the car is unlikely to be ready before January because of delays encountered in getting the team's factory in Brackley finished. This would not be at all surprising as new teams usually take longer than they plan to produce prototype cars.
Zonta is 22 and was recently crowned the FIA Grand Touring Champion. He will drive for BAR in 1999 and is believed to be under an option to continue in the year 2000.