BMW Consider a Shoot-Out with Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve could face a shoot-out in testing later this year to determine whether BMW keep hold of him next season, Autosport-Atlas has learned

Although the former World Champion has said several times that his contract for 2006 is water-tight, BMW chiefs are still evaluating their options for next year to decide who will line-up alongside Nick Heidfeld.

And BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen has admitted that one of the possibilities being considered is for the team to compare the contenders for the seat in winter testing before making the final decision.

"We have to make sure that we can achieve the best possible results in 2006," said Theissen. "With that, I am not only speaking for race results but also about the build-up work ahead of us being a new team.

"We need drivers who can push us forward, who can develop a car. I do not wish to talk about names, but it has to be our target that we can start working at the end of November with the two drivers who shall be in the cars in 2006.

"If we cannot achieve that, we might even do a driver comparison program in November."

Theissen believes that Villeneuve has made progress from his shaky start to the season, and the German has hinted that the Canadian could secure his future if he impresses in the final two races of this year.

"The Villeneuve situation is something we currently look into very thoroughly," he added. "You could see at the start of the season that even for a World Champion it is not that easy to come back and be competitive right away.

"Villeneuve needed some time to fit into the team and to come to grips with the tyres. In the second half of the season however he is much closer to Felipe Massa. We want to see how he does in the last couple of races."

BMW would have plenty of reason to keep Villeneuve on board for 2006. He would be keen to help push the team forward, they would not have the expense of having to buy out his contract, and he has a big following in North America which is a major market for the car company.

However, there are several other candidates that are being considered for the seat - with McLaren test driver Alexander Wurz believed to be among the favourites. He is out of contract after the season finishes in China.

The team are also understood to be in talks with Antonio Pizzonia about a deal for next year. The Brazilian has enjoyed close ties with BMW through his recent links with Williams.

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