Panis says yes to two-year BAR deal

Olivier Panis has confirmed that he will drive for BAR-Honda in next year's Formula 1 World Championship, replacing out-of-favour Brazilian Ricardo Zonta

Panis says yes to two-year BAR deal

The Frenchman has signed a two-year deal with the Brackley-based squad, but will continue his testing duties with McLaren-Mercedes for the rest of the season. The BAR deal is expected to be officially announced within the next 24 hours.

"I'm very, very happy," said Panis during Silverstone testing today (Wednesday). "It's going to be a completely different experience and a completely different car to the McLaren, but it's a new challenge and I'm so happy that I'll be racing again.

"I've worked with Honda before, so it's nice to come back to them."

Panis's only Grand Prix victory came in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, driving a Mugen Honda-powered Ligier. His fortunes dipped with those of the Ligier team, which became Prost in 1998, and reached a low with a leg-breaking accident in the 1997 Canadian Grand Prix.

Despite an offer to join Williams for 2000, the 34-year-old chose to resurrect his career by joining McLaren. The Woking squad has been impressed with his testing skills - which will be key in BAR's efforts to become a genuine front-running team - and will continue to use him in a non-sensitive role for the duration of its 2000 campaign.

"Olivier is committed to contributing to this year's world championship," said McLaren team boss Ron Dennis in Hungary. "He will be testing right through to after the last Grand Prix and he has expressed no desire for it to be any different."

Ricardo Zonta is tipped to switch to Sauber for 2001, replacing fellow Brazilian Pedro Diniz.

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