Feature: Pizzonia Still Has Plenty to Prove

Stirling Moss once described Jackie Stewart as a Grand Prix driver who went fast enough to win but at the slowest possible speed.

Feature: Pizzonia Still Has Plenty to Prove

Stirling Moss once described Jackie Stewart as a Grand Prix driver who went fast enough to win but at the slowest possible speed.

The three-times World Champion was smooth and precise. Where others tried too hard, the Scot cut out the mistakes and was quicker for it.

Antonio Pizzonia could learn from him.

Stewart, whose Formula One team became Jaguar after he sold it to Ford in 1999, was in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix at the weekend as the Brazilian rookie risked losing his drive after just five races.

Arguing that the 22-year-old should be given more time to prove himself, a view that Jaguar endorsed only after an attempt to sign Austrian Alexander Wurz from McLaren fell through, Stewart offered Pizzonia some advice.

"Sometimes when you try too hard you don't deliver quite as well as you might," he said. I think Antonio has obviously wanted to do well, he's been compared with Rubens Barrichello as another Brazilian or as the next Ayrton Senna. That's a big weight on any young man's shoulders.

"I think he has to be given time just to settle down. If he does not deliver over a period of time then you've got to make the tough decision."

Feel Good

The saga was almost a textbook case of how not to handle a driver problem and it detracted from Jaguar's genuine achievements. The R4 is a big step up and Australian Mark Webber has shown that in qualifying. He also scored the team's first points of the year on Sunday.

While Pizzonia has struggled with one-lap qualifying on unfamiliar circuits and been hit by technical problems beyond his control, replacement could have made matters worse.

"Sometimes change causes disruption, change doesn't happen smoothly," said Stewart. "I think that's one of the problems that Jaguar Racing has had in the past, we've probably had too many changes within the management structure of the team. That's now beginning to settle down and the team's doing better because of that."

Stewart has nurtured several of today's top drivers at similar stages in their careers and he knows that sometimes the turnaround can be dramatic. The likes of David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Allan McNish all drove for his son Paul in junior categories.

But Denmark's Jan Magnussen, a sensationally quick driver who dominated British Formula Three in 1994, should also serve as a warning for Pizzonia. Stewart signed him for his Formula One team in 1997 but the expected blaze of glory never came. Halfway through the following season he was out.

Parapet Problem

"Jan was a very skilled driver but he found it almost impossible to qualify properly," said Stewart. "He could test very well, he could practise very quickly but as soon as he had to do it for one lap or for so many for qualifying he found that he was overdriving.

"It's not unusual in young drivers. What you've got to do is step above that parapet and then after you've done it once or twice suddenly you find that you don't have to drive aggressively in order to do a fast time. But when you haven't yet got to that level it's a great temptation to push.

"And the harder you push, the slower the car travels generally."

Pizzonia, British Formula Three champion in 2000 and Williams test driver last year, still has everything to prove. He has been given a reprieve but with the driver merry-go-round soon to pick up pace, he still does not have time on his side even if he has more than might have been expected last week.

"Antonio Pizzonia was found as very talented and very skilled in his days of testing for Williams and the jury is obviously still out," said Stewart. "He has to deliver sooner or later but I don't think it has to be yesterday."

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