Davidson Put in the Hot Seat

Anthony Davidson will make a return to Grand Prix racing tomorrow, but not quite in the way he had hoped for

Davidson Put in the Hot Seat

The BAR-Honda driver will replace Japanese Takuma Sato, who fell ill yesterday and was ruled out of the Malaysian Grand Prix. This will be Davidson's first race since 2002, when he replaced Malaysian Alex Yoong at Minardi for two races without scoring any points. The 25-year-old has been BAR's reserve driver since 2001.

"Obviously it's jumping straight into the thick of it," said BAR technical director Geoff Willis. "Neither he, nor we, were expecting him to be in the car this morning. Anthony arrived on Thursday evening but he is very, very fit at the moment. He's really quite robust and we're sure he'll be up to it."

Davidson, who had been due to fly back to Europe later on Saturday to resume testing in France next week, was 10th fastest in final practice before first qualifying.

Sunday's race could be a big break for the Briton after coming close to landing a drive last season. Williams were interested but he was unable to test for them after BAR made clear they wanted control over his future. Davidson was also close to securing a drive for Jaguar before the team was sold to Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz and became Red Bull Racing.

Most recently, Autosport magazine revealed he has been linked to Swiss-based Sauber as a possible replacement for Canadian Jacques Villeneuve should the 1997 champion fail to meet performance requirements. Davidson's management began talks with Sauber after the Melbourne season-opener and will talk to them again after Malaysia.

Willis said on today, however, that the driver remained part of BAR's future planning. "We don't have our driver decisions made for 2006 and therefore if we had any discussion with Anthony driving for another team this year, it would only be on the grounds that it would be for a single year," he said.

Davidson was optimistic his time would come. "I want to be racing next year, desperate to do it and I feel I'm more than ready now to do it," he had said on today. "Testing continues to go well and I feel mightily comfortable here with the team, but I want to be on the grid for next year wherever that may be.

"I want it so much that all my focus is pinned on that. But in the meantime, you never know in Formula One."

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