AUGUST 2, 2002

Frentzen on the market

Heinz-Harald Frentzen has left the Orange Arrows with immediate effect and while this will be a blow to the already struggling team, it is probably a sign that Frentzen has something else to do. The ability to walk out of the Arrows deal would suggest that the contractual arrangements between the two parties had not been met (one might even speculate that Frentzen had not been paid) but leaving the team would be a radical step indeed if Frentzen did not have an option. Clearly there are options.

Most of the midfield teams have issues with at least one of their drivers. Frentzen's performances this year have shown that Heinz has lost none of his ability - a fact which rather undermines the Jordan Grand Prix case in the forthcoming lawsuit between the two parties. Jordan ditched Frentzen a year ago, claiming that he was not fit to drive. Taking Heinz-Harald back again might be an option for Eddie Jordan (and would neatly solve the legal action) but it is hard to see how he would get out of his contracts with Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella. Neither man has an obvious place to go at the moment.

Sauber has been mentioned as a possible destination for Frentzen and all is not well inside the team following the imposition of team orders on Felipe Massa at the German GP. Frentzen might be slotted in to replace Massa if the Swiss felt it would be a good idea.

Toyota has been surrounded by rumors in recent weeks that Allan McNish would be replaced before the end of the year. These reached such proportions that the team issued a public denial. Frentzen has been linked to a possible drive with the team. A mid-season deal is not, however, in the style of the Japanese manufacturer and we would be surprised if this were the action taken.

Jaguar Racing might also be an option. Frentzen knows the Ford engine and the Arrows chassis and his knowledge might be useful to Jaguar at a time when it is in urgent need of input from someone other than the existing drivers. There are contractual issues involved (of course) with both Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa but a change now might help convince the Ford Motor Company that Jaguar Racing is a team to be taken seriously.

The other question which suddenly opens up is who will replace Frentzen at Arrows. It would be convenient for all concerned if this were to be Jos Verstappen. He has a lawsuit (perhaps two) outstanding against the team and to give him an F1 drive would get rid of that problem. Verstappen is unlikely to refuse such a deal as it would put him back into the spotlight at a time when moves for next season are being discussed.