JUNE 14, 1999
Ford buys Stewart
Ford's decision to buy the team underlines the company's commitment to success in F1 and gives it firm control over the decision-making processes. It is widely seen as being an important step because of the expected arrival in F1 in the next few years of Toyota, Honda and General Motors.
Stewart says that he made the decision to sell because another step is necessary to enable the team to challenge Ferrari and McLaren. "If we had gone about it in the normal way," he said, "we could not have expected to be competitive for at least 10 years."
Stewart turned 60 on Friday in Canada. He will stay on as chairman and chief executive of the team and his son Paul will remain as deputy chairman. In the longer-term, however, there is unlikely to be a place in the team for either of them. If Ford was completely happy with the way things were being run there would have been no reason to buy the team. It is therefore expected that the pair will remain in their current roles for perhaps a year and then be quietly faded out of the scene.
There is no doubt at all that the long-term aim is for the team to become a Jaguar F1 operation. The Jaguar management is already pushing hard for the team to change identity so they can use it in the marketing battle currently going on with BMW in the car markets. The timing of the switch is still to be decided as there are existing contracts in place and as most of the team's sponsorship comes from Ford customers it will not be easy for Ford to end the deals quickly. Ultimately, however, Jaguar will take over either at the start of 2000 or 2001. We understand that there is no possibility of a Silk Cut deal, as has been rumored, but there may be attempts to revive the long-standing Jaguar-Castrol relationship.
The question is now who will actually run the team in the longer term and not surprisingly there have been suggestions that David Richards will be involved. This is certainly an option for Ford although our spies say that it is not a foregone conclusion as Ford may be willing to wait for another top name from a rival team to become available.