MARCH 6, 1995

Larrousse politics

The future of the Larrousse team remains in doubt, despite team owners Gerard Larrousse, Jean Messauodi and Laurent Barlesi insisting that the team will be racing this year.

There were stories circulating in France last week that Larrousse had drafted a press release announcing the team's demise, but this may have been part of the ongoing financial negotiations with the French government. Larrousse hopes that French prime minister Edouard Balladur will agree to find some money from public funds to ensure that there is at least one French team in F1 this year. Until the end of last year, the French Ministry of Youth and Sport funded a variety of racing teams in an effort to replace the money lost to motorsport since the introduction of Evin's Law - which banned tobacco and alcohol sponsorship.

Larrousse has a strong case because since Evin's Law was introduced French motorsport has suffered badly: the Ligier team has passed to foreign ownership; and French drivers have struggled to find sponsorship. Without Larrousse there will be only three Frenchman in F1 this year: Jean Alesi at Ferrari, Olivier Panis at Ligier and Bertrand Gachot at Pacific. Two or three years ago there were as many as six or seven French GP drivers.

Larrousse intends to field two Frenchman but the idea of an Erik Comas\Emmanuel Collard pairing has flopped. Comas has announced that he is sitting out the 1995 season, preferring to test the new DAMS F1 car and come back to F1 in 1996 with Jean-Paul Driot's team. Twenty-three year old Collard - who test drove for Williams last year - is widely tipped to be the new test driver at Benetton.

Messaoudi and Barlesi are known to want Eric Helary and Christophe Bouchut, both of who drove for Messaoudi in FF1600 racing. Neither has driven in F1 before although both are clearly reasonably quick as they were consecutive French F3 champions in 1990 and 1991.

In the last few days the name of Eric Bernard has also entered the picture. Eric has a lot of F1 experience and would be useful to help guide the youngsters, who would share the second car.