JANUARY 30, 2001

Bernoldi and Arrows

THE Arrows team has been running Brazilian youngster Enrique Bernoldi in recent days in Barcelona and this has led to speculation that the team may decide to take on the Formula 3000 graduate. Bernoldi was the Sauber test driver last year but was passed over when it became to 2001 with the Swiss team deciding to go with Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen. Bernoldi has long enjoyed the support of Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz and as Mateschitz and Peter Sauber are currently negotiating over their future together (and if there is one), Bernoldi appears to have fallen victim to the situation. Bernoldi is believed to have substantial backing from Brazil for a drive in F1 in 2001.

Arrows was expected to stay with its 2000 drivers. Pedro de la Rosa was under option to the team, subject to an agreement being reached with his sponsor Repsol-YPF while Jos Verstappen has continued to test for the team throughout the winter and so it was assumed that the two men would be staying in 2001. Both men have proved themselves to be more than competent and have plenty of experience so any decision to go with Bernoldi would be a clear sign that the team needs more money. We hear that Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw and Repsol-YPF are currently not agreeing on the amount of space that the oil company should have on the car and that this is why Bernoldi has suddenly appeared on the scene.

What is interesting is how hard Walkinshaw will push Repsol-YPF and whether he will risk losing de la Rosa. There is little doubt that Pedro could turn around and sign for Minardi. This would give Repsol-YPF a great deal more space on the car and might be a good move given that there are a lot of question marks over the Asiatech V10 engines. The Minardi engines may not be very powerful but they are reliable.

Arrows has changed engines for the second consecutive season and that always causes disruption and effects reliability. There has been a lot of change in the engineering staff and management as well but the biggest question marks remain over the Asiatech engines. As no-one is really sure who Asiatech is, it is difficult to know whether or not they are really committed to doing the job properly or whether they are simply making some money with old F1 engines. The Asiatech V10s are rebadged Peugeots and the French engines were neither very competitive nor very reliable last year. There is also a question as to whether there will be a big clearout of staff as the Peugeot career men leave the company to rejoin the main Peugeot company.

In all probability, the dispute will be solved and de la Rosa will stay at Arrows but that then leads to the question as to whether or not Jos Verstappen will get a contract as well. If Arrows needs money Verstappen might not be able to compete with Bernoldi. It is worth noting that Jos is close to some of the management of the new Minardi team, having been the driver chosen for the Honda Racing Developments operation in 1999. This consisted of many of the old Tyrrell staff and a large number of these are involved in the takeover of Minardi by Paul Stoddart.