Zonta set for Sauber seat

Sauber is set to sign Ricardo Zonta for 2001, with McLaren test driver Olivier Panis taking over the Brazilian's BAR seat

Zonta set for Sauber seat

Zonta's fading chances of staying with the Brackley-based squad were dashed completely when he clashed with team leader Jacques Villeneuve in the German Grand Prix last month. As predicted in Autosport, Panis is expected to be confirmed as a BAR driver before the end of the month.

Sources say that the Frenchman was primed to step in at last weekend's Hungarian GP, but will now see out the season in his role as McLaren's test driver after BAR's prime sponsor British American Tobacco was unwilling to stretch its budget to cover an early release, according to Autosport's sister publication Motoring News.

Speaking to Motoring News, Zonta said: "After Hockenheim, there is no way that I will still be at BAR next year. Last week I had a big discussion with the people to see whether or not I would drive in Hungary. You never know - maybe I will still not finish the season."

Pedro Diniz is said to be certain to quit Sauber at the end of the season, with Zonta set to join the Swiss team, despite also talking to Arrows.

"We are speaking with many teams, and Sauber is giving out a good opportunity for negotiations for next year. They are a very good team and are fighting in a good position in the championship. But it also depends on my results - I just need to show my potential."

Should Mika Salo leave Sauber to take up a testing role with Toyota's new-for-2002 F1 project, Zonta could be joined by fellow Brazilian and Formula 3000 points leader Bruno Junqueira. He is said to have a firm offer from Champ Car squad Chip Ganassi Racing, but is holding out for an F1 seat.


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