NOVEMBER 13, 2001
What does Jaguar Racing do now?
The team had hoped to get a top designer and by doing so attract a top driver in 2003. But that has not happened.
The problem with Jaguar's recent maneuvers is that it has done nothing for the current design team at Milton Keynes. They are a very talented group of people but the management of the team has made it fairly clear that it would prefer to have others if they were available. This is not a good move for the motivation of the engineers currently working on the Jaguar-Cosworth R3. After failing to sign up Adrian Newey in the summer the then boss of Jaguar Racing Bobby Rahal said that he would rely on the existing set-up. This was a smart move as all those involved knew the value of Newey.
The ousting of Rahal and the arrival of Niki Lauda blew this confidence out of the water. Lauda made it very clear that he wanted new people and went after Fisher and Willis. For Jaguar technical director Steve Nichols, chief designer John Russell and chief aerodynamicist Mark Handford this was a real slap in the face and can have nothing for their feelings towards Lauda.
They will, of course, be trying to do their best as the production of competitive car next year will raise their value dramatically in the F1 paddock and at the same time give them the satisfaction of having proved Lauda wrong.
The danger however is that if a better offer comes along they may each consider that there is no reason to be loyal to a team which has not been very loyal to them. Russell is highly-rated back at Williams, where he was trained under Patrick Head, although Fisher's recent signing of new long-term contract would seem to shut the door for John to return. Handford has shown that he has ability and that is rather more than some F1 aerodynamicists have done in the recent seasons. He is certain to be on a number of shopping lists and Nichols is always welcome back at McLaren.
Lauda's strategy has failed - just as Rahal's did before him - and now we must wait to see how much damage has been done in the attempt.