MARCH 22, 1999
Jaguar for 2000?
This makes a lot of commercial sense. Jaguar is currently going head-to-head with BMW in a sales war with the new S-Type - which is known within Jaguar as "the BMW killer" aimed at the BMW 5 Series market and the planned X400 "Baby Jag" going for the BMW 3 Series market. Ford hopes that the S-Type will double Jaguar's sales and that the X400 will then double them again in the year 2001. The best marketing weapon available to Jaguar would be to beat BMW on the race track and with the Munich company due to start racing in Grands Prix with Williams in 2000, Ford would be well-placed to humiliate Munich with a switch of badging next year.
The process of bringing Jaguar into F1 received a shot in the arm last week with the appointment of Wolfgang Reitzle as the new Jaguar chairman. Until recently Reitzle was the number two at BMW - and the man who was pushing hardest for the BMW Formula 1 program. Reitzle is now in charge of Ford's new Premier Automotive Group, which includes Jaguar, AstonÊMartin, Lincoln and Volvo. He is also chairman of both Jaguar and Volvo.
Although Ford has denied that it has any concrete plans to enter Jaguar in F1, sources within the company admit that last year there was a serious evaluation carried out to see if a deal could be organized for Jaguar-badged Ford V10s to be supplied to Benetton. In the end the Benetton Family backed away from a deal with Ford and, as a result, Benetton's managing-director David Richards left the team.
If there is a switch to Jaguar next year it will be interesting to see whether or not Ford continues with its own F1 program as well. An F1 engine program would not necessarily conflict with Jaguar as Ford has its own marketing battles to win. The cost of supplying two teams with differently-badged engines would not be excessive and such a move would help to gain the maximum value from Ford's investment in F1 - which has been considerable. It is not unusual for a manufacturer to extend its engine supply once it has been successful, although normally the engines carry the same name.
If the Ford program was to continue there is no shortage of teams which would like to use the engines. The most obvious candidate would be Jordan although Benetton may return to the negotiating table now that the team has seen the potential of the new Ford V10 and realized just how uncompetitive the Supertec V10 is going to be. Sauber is also looking for an engine deal and there is no doubt that Arrows too would like such a deal.
One point which should be taken into account is that David Richards is still lurking around the edges of F1 and is no doubt hoping that he can be involved in a future Ford-related F1 program.