David Richards Q&A

Takuma Sato's three-year deal with BAR is intriguing. Yes, he is only 'reserve' driver at the moment, but the option is there to push him into the race team at any time in the future. BAR boss David Richards has shown that he is not afraid to make changes at the team to make it competitive after years of disappointment. Is this a sign that Jacques Villeneuve's replacement is under contract before the Canadian is actually on his way? Not at all, says Richards, who is optimistic for the new season. But as he tells Autosport.com's Damien Smith, the onus is on Villeneuve to deliver, especially if the new BAR is as good as he hopes

David Richards Q&A



"Well, we've always had a relationship with Takuma. Remember, he was contracted to BAR and we released him to drive for Jordan anyway. So it's not when the talks started, it's when they finished. It's been an ongoing relationship since he came into F1 with a BAR testing contract."



"Clearly an influence - I'm not going to deny that having a test driver who can speak Japanese and communicate in Japanese with the Honda engineers will be an advantage to us. But by the same token, Takuma's performance last year, particularly towards the end of the season at Suzuka, where he obviously knew the circuit well, was amazing. He has an incredible following in Japan as well. From that side as well it was an influential point."



"At the moment we are focused on testing. Our priority now is let's get next year's car up and running and let's worry about getting to the early races of the season and see how competitive we are. It's early days to be talking about 2004."



"Yes, exactly and he has every justification to believe that as well, given his performances this year."



"I wouldn't like to be precise on that given that I don't have all the facts and figures in front of me. It will be substantial though. We've got a fairly intense test programme and there is no denying we have got a lot of work to do to make up lost ground. Honda has a lot of test and development work planned on the engine side, as well as offering a number of ideas on the chassis side. So it will be substantial."



"That was an influencing factor - the amount of test and development work that Honda anticipates us doing next year."



"We are very supportive of Anthony, he has a long-term agreement with the team. We have been trying to place him in a race seat for next season. Those options are, to my knowledge still open as well, and I'm meeting Anthony later this week to talk it through with him. But if those options don't come to fruition, there will always be a testing role for him back with us at BAR. There is enough work for them, that's for sure."



"Correct. It's a very good combination because Anthony knows the team very well, knows all the people, knows the car - at least this year's because next year's is radically different. They are a good pairing, a good combination."



"No. As I say, our focus is on the short term - 2004 is a long way off. I'm totally convinced that Jacques' performance next year is going to be very different from the last few years, when he is given a car that he can use to full advantage. He appears very motivated and excited about the challenge, and I believe he is going to be very much in the frame as a sought-after driver by the end of the year."



"Well, he has to share - he is part of a team. He has been part of a team that has underperformed to date. Yes, the equipment hasn't been there, but we all play our role in that and we all have to share in any failings in that respect. But I am quite convinced that next year will be a different kettle of fish altogether."



"It was really about electronic systems work and some tyre work. Not a lot should be read into it. I had a long chat to Jenson after he drove the car and he was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the performance in the old car. It did improve towards the end of the season and the engine did improve in the last few races. So he was encouraged by all that he saw and enthusiastic by what's to come."



"They haven't had a lot of interface with each other. They have met socially and hopefully they have got their heads down and are focussing on their own tasks."



"They both aquitted themselves exceptionally well. Ralph, to no great surprise, got into the car and was fully at home. Unfortunately at the end of the day we had a technical problem that didn't allow him to do a new tyre/low fuel run. And Matsuura was very professional and did a very competent job without making any mistakes all day."



"Well, I made it very clear to him that this was initially a one-off and came without any promises, but he certainly impressed the engineers."

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