AUGUST 14, 2000
Panis signs for BAR
ALTHOUGH it is yet to be officially announced Olivier Panis has agreed a two-year deal to drive for British American Racing for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
BAR management has been trying very hard in recent days to get McLaren boss Ron Dennis to release Panis with immediate effect, in order for Olivier to take over immediately from Ricardo Zonta but that plan has, not unnaturally, been blocked by Dennis who wants to minimize the damage caused by Panis's departure. Dennis says that Panis will continue to test for McLaren until the end of the year although he admitted that there may be 2001 parts which will be tested by other drivers. Dennis said that the team has not begun to think about a possible replacement for Olivier but values experience highly.
Panis's decision to sign for BAR is a blow to the ambitions of several midfield drivers, notably Pedro Diniz, who is now left with very few choices other than to stay at Sauber, and Alexander Wurz. Wurz, however, might benefit from a job as McLaren test driver. He is well-known for his abilities as a test driver and his experience might be very helpful for McLaren.