BAR in No Hurry to Announce Villeneuve's Fate

Jacques Villeneuve's Formula One future may not become clear until the final race of the season in Japan, his BAR team boss David Richards said today.

BAR in No Hurry to Announce Villeneuve's Fate

Jacques Villeneuve's Formula One future may not become clear until the final race of the season in Japan, his BAR team boss David Richards said today.

"I'm certainly not going to make any announcements, whether I've made a decision or not, for some little time yet," Richards told reporters after McLaren confirmed David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen in an unchanged line-up for 2004.

"I don't expect an announcement probably until Japan," he added. "That doesn't mean I've made the decision too late or any contracts too late, it just means that I won't be telling everyone until Japan."

The McLaren announcement focused paddock speculation on Villeneuve as the biggest name yet to be confirmed for next season.

The Canadian, 1997 World Champion with Williams, has few options open to him now with both Renault and Toyota confirming their drivers in recent days. Champions Ferrari and title rivals Williams have no vacancies either.

McLaren test driver Alexander Wurz had played his part in the rumour mill, including as a possible replacement for Villeneuve at BAR, until Friday when McLaren said he would continue as their reserve driver.

"Various people jumped to conclusions because Alex came and had a cup of coffee with me the other day," said Richards, who said he was not short of people looking for a drive.

Slim Chance

Villeneuve has said repeatedly that he expects to be in Formula One next year but others rate his chances as increasingly slim with Canada's race already struck off the calendar. Japan's Takuma Sato, the Honda-backed BAR test driver, is a contender to join Briton Jenson Button at the team.

"I haven't asked him (Villeneuve) what his other options are," said Richards. "Jacques and I spent some time together recently and we continue our discussions."

Jaguar might offer a home but team boss Tony Purnell suggested that the Canadian was not a candidate for a seat that Briton Justin Wilson hopes to make his own after replacing Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia this month.

"Our position for next year is that Mark Webber stays in his seat and Justin is hoping to prove himself and secure it for next year," said Purnell.

"Justin's pressure is to perform in the racing car which is the pressure on every driver in the pit lane," he said, discounting any suggestion that Wilson could breathe more easily with Wurz out of the frame.

"There won't be a decision on drivers for some time although I'd like to do it before the end of the season," he said. "There is a queue of drivers so long and mighty that I can hardly believe the situation...what a choice.

"I'd just love to publish a list on the internet because it would have all the journalists busy for months. I bet you I could put 20 who have approached us."

Asked whether there were any Canadians on the list, Purnell replied: "Not to my knowledge."

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