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FEBRUARY 22, 1999

Arrows confirms de la Rosa...

AS expected Arrows Grand Prix has announced that Pedro de la Rosa will be one of its drivers this season. The Spaniard brings major backing from Spanish oil company Repsol, which supported him last year when he was test driver with the Jordan team.

The Spanish company is keen to use Formula 1 racing to aid its push into the South American market but has long been a big player in sporting sponsorship with successful relationships with the Honda factory 500cc motorcycle team of MickÊDoohan and Alex Criville and with Carlos Sainz in rallying.

The team launched the Arrows A20 - an evolution of the 1998 car - amid rumors that Tom Walkinshaw's engine department is considering a switch to V12 engines. This is a route which is being examined by other engine companies at the moment but with Arrows clearly short of money it is hard to imagine that such a project will get beyond the design stage.

Arrows has adopted a curious livery featuring a number which is reducing daily. The countdown will end just before the San Marino Grand Prix and one can only imagine that this is when the team intends to announce its full 1999 package. This is curious because if deals are in place it would be logical to announce them now so as to maximize the possible TV coverage in the first two races. The only conclusion, therefore, is that no decision has yet been made.

There remain stories that the team will find backing from British American Tobacco, and will use whichever branding BritishÊAmerican Racing discards: 555 or Lucky Strike.

The A20 is the same chassis as last year but all the running gear has been changed and the aerodynamics of the car has been improved. The troublesome carbonfiber gearbox remains but has completely new internals. This is not a very promising package as, towards the end of last year, Mika Salo commented that the Arrows V10 engine was already too powerful for the chassis. As the engine being used this year is a further development of the unit Salo was describing, it is reasonable to suggest that the car will not be easy to handle.