FORMULA ONE: Silly Season Starts In F1

Posted By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

July 11, 2001

Silly season. That time of the year that fans, pundits and other followers of the world-wide circus known as the Formula One World Championship for Makes begin the annual speculation game of who is going where next year has started in earnest.

It used to be that "silly season" did not start until the end of July or the beginning of August. Nowadays with pressure from sponsors, (read millions of dollars at stake) teams are being forced to begin securing next year's driver lineups as early as the first race of the current season. One need only look to Team Jaguar and it's handling of driver line-ups this year.

The latest speculation has Jacques Villeneuve leaving BAR for McLaren if Mika Hakkinen decides to leave McLaren at years end. While the rumors of Hakkinen's departure have remained constant through out the year, the chances of his leaving are remote. First, Hakkinen is a competitor. A third world championship is a reality for the Finnish driver if he stays with McLaren. Second, Hakkinen would only leave McLaren if a better or equally competitive seat were available. That would mean driving for Ferrari or Williams. Reportedly both of those teams have secured their drivers for 2002. Look for Hakkinen to stay at McLaren. Then again he could be another Niki Lauda who retired his first time around (Canada) on a race weekend.

The other rumor of the week has Olivier Panis going to McLaren. This scenario does not even get out of the starting blocks. Panis is an accomplished driver who has been looking for a top-level team to demonstrate his talents. However, a move to McLaren is just not on the menu. The Villeneuve scenario would occur before this one.

Aside from drivers moving from team to team, the teams themselves are working on engine deals. Arrows is trying to secure a deal with Cosworth to move away from the under performing Asiatech engine deal. Team Jaguar would remain the obvious primary customer for Cosworth. However, the speculation has been that Cosworth could provide another team with engines. The caveat being that Team Jaguar would not be required to share vital data with a second "works" team.

So silly season is in full swing. By the time that the last race is held in Japan all of us should have a grasp of who is going to be where next year. But then again, this is the world of Formula One where changes occur almost at the speed of light.

Text provided by David Treffer

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