JULY 27, 2002

Moves at BAR

Most people are assuming that Jacques Villeneuve will soon conclude a new deal with British American Racing and that Olivier Panis will thus be forced to leave the team in order to make room for Jenson Button next year. The team is believed to be paying Button $4.5m in 2003 and $6.5m in 2004 and that means that if Villeneuve stays BAR is facing a wage bill of around $20m a year. The team has a contract with Jacques and says that it will honor it so the only obvious way that things would change is if Villeneuve voluntarily decides to move on and as there is nowhere obvious for him to go that does not seem like a likely outcome.

But nothing is certain until it becomes clear what Jacques's manager Craig Pollock is going to do. Pollock has been involved with talks to buy Arrows and, given the current levels of performance, that would have to be seen as a possible option for Villeneuve if Pollock was able to pull together a deal. There is no doubt that Jacques wants to be paid properly but at the same time he needs to re-establish himself as a credible race winner who is worth the kind of money being paid. Given the current situation with BAR (where Jacques is paid a great deal more than Panis) the difference in the performance of the two drivers is not sufficiently marked to warrant the salary and Jacques unusual attitude towards promotional work is very difficult to square with the sponsors.

There is still the chance therefore that arrangements between Villeneuve and BAR are not set in stone.