JANUARY 5, 2002
Now that the hullaballoo has died down
The launch season is always a time of hype and high expectations. The danger of being a Formula 1 journalist is that one can be swept along in all the warm woolly optimism of the season.
The Jaguar Racing launch revealed a new car, which the team says will be a big step forward. The message was the same last year. There have been some improvements since then. Aerodynamicist Mark Handford has been able to make his mark on the design of the new R3 and the result will be eagerly awaited to see if Handford is as much of a star as he has been made out to be. One cannot, however, really judge him fairly as his access to a sensible windtunnel has been limited.
Jaguar finally got round to announcing its deal with Adrian Reynard but the announcement made it clear that the new windtunnel will not be operational until next month. Handford himself says that working with a windtunnel in California was "a major handicap" but added that once the Reynard tunnel is up and running the team will finally be on an even footing with its opposition.
Let us not forget also that if the jaguar R3 is a success much of the credit for that should go to former chief executive Bobby Rahal, who put the design team in place. Any success will no doubt be claimed by others and any failure will be dumped on Rahal. Such is the way of the world in Ford Motor Company politics.
Certainly, Jaguar has not been able to find much in the way of money after the 2001 season. The new deals with Castrol and with the James Bond organization (there is a 007 logo on the car) will not bring in vast amounts of income. The Castrol deal has been done on the back of an original supply deal for the entire Premier Automotive Group and the 007 deal is simply a bonus for the James Bond organization which has negotiated the use of a Jaguar in the next Bond movie. Traditionally Bond was an Aston Martin driver but in recent films the producers have realized that they can gain a great deal of money from product placement. Bond has thus driven BMWs in his recent movies but a switch to Jaguar while being good for the image of Jaguar will not have brought any money to the team.
The jury remains out on whether or not Jaguar Racing will be much better this year than it was in 2001. Eddie Irvine did not make a great impression last year and needs to sharpen up his act as the team's number one. Pedro de la Rosa is a good solid driver but has not to date given any glimpses of extraordinary ability.
Funnily enough, success will probably be the worst thing for both drivers as if the Jaguar is quick in 2002 Irvine will find his drive becoming much more attractive to some of his rivals...