MARCH 17, 2007

Nelson Philippe sniffs around F1

Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe was spotted in the F1 paddock in Melbourne and the whisper is that the 20-year-old Frenchman is trying to talk his way into a test drive in Formula 1 as his career in America has run out of steam because of the financial demands of the teams in the United States, where money is hard to find because of the never-ending lunacy that is the IRL-Champ Car fight. Everyone is trying hard to make things seem promising but the field in both series are threadbare and only those with sufficient cash are getting rides, unless the team owners are willing to pay for them.

Philippe is the youngest driver to ever drive a Champ Car, having made his debut at 17. In 2004 he raced for Rocketsports before finding a better relationship with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. In 2005 he began to show promise and won the award for the most improved driver that year and he did the same in 2006, winning in Surfers Paradise for the CTE-HVM Racing operation, which has now become Minardi USA. Logic would dictate that he should stay where he is but the money seems to be a problem and so Philippe is looking at F1.

Our spies tell us that he might try talking Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore into a management deal. That will mean that he will sign away a proportion of his income for years to come but will also give him the chance to test something in F1 and that could lead to a new career in a series which would love to have more French involvement.