MAY 15, 2000
Pantano tries a Benetton
GIORGIO PANTANO was testing for Benetton last week in Jerez de la Frontera. The 21-year-old Italian is one of the most highly-rated kartist of all time, having won a string of victories at international level.
Benetton has announced that its planned test driver Hidetoshi Mitsusada, who has never had a run in a car, is not going to continue with the team. Mitsusada has failed to qualify for all the Formula 3000 races this year. He landed the Benetton deal thanks to backing from Japanese Internet provider MTCI and one must presume that Briatore intends to refund the money that Mitsusada promised to the team.
The Brazilian youngster Antonio Pizzonia had been expected to test for Benetton but we hear that he decided not to sign a six-page contract presented to him by Briatore before he was allowed to drive the car. We hear that Pizzonia has since been in negotiation with the MySap.com Formula 3000 team (McLaren's F3000 junior team) about a possible drive.
While Pantano is an obvious choice for Benetton, the deal may not be done easily because the young Italian is being advised by former Benetton team boss Peter Collins, who is not a great Briatore fan and so will be very careful when it comes to talking contracts with the Italian team manager.