Team Review – BAR/Craig Pollock

CHAMPIONSHIP: 5th, 20pts (Jacques Villeneuve 17pts, Ricardo Zonta 3pts)

Team Review – BAR/Craig Pollock

4th (Villeneuve, four times)4th (Villeneuve, at Monza)
Jacques getting the team's first points at Melbourne.
Zonta's Silverstone test crash, the pit stop cock-up for Jacques in Montreal, and the ongoing internal disputes.
Olivier Panis replaces Zonta, giving Jacques somebody new to practice his gamesmanship on. Honda's input should pay even greater dividends, but it will inevitably be diluted by the deal with Jordan.

After the disappointment and frustration of the team's debut season, British American Racing made good progress in 2000, advancing from last to fifth in the championship - and just one more point would have pushed Benetton out of fourth. Jacques Villeneuve did most of the scoring, taking a series of four fourth places. At Magny-Cours and the A1-Ring he was 'best of the rest' behind the McLarens and Ferraris, a feat he also managed when he was fifth at Imola and Sepang. Honda's arrival made a huge difference, but the car was a much better prospect than its predecessor, and the race team was much sharper than previously. However, a lot of points did go astray. Jacques was guaranteed a good result in Canada when a miscue on the radio saw him get the wrong tyres, and in his frustration he later crashed into Ralf Schumacher. A possible podium at Monza was lost to an electrical problem, while at Indianapolis the Canadian failed to dislodged Heinz-Harald Frentzen from third, after blowing his best chance by sailing across the first corner grass. Jacques was only twice outqualified by team mate Ricardo Zonta, who had a disappointing season. A massive testing crash at Silverstone, followed soon after by another at Monza, did nothing for his confidence in the car. He managed three sixth places, although one came only after a disqualification ahead. For most of the year the team seemed to avoid washing its dirty linen in public, but in recent weeks the situation has once again been muddied as principal players Craig Pollock and Adrian Reynard have appeared to have different agendas. Adam Cooper spoke to Craig about the team's season - and its future.

"The turnaround actually started last year. What I am happy about is that all the lessons we learned last year have sunk in and paid off this year. I'm more than pleased with that turnaround. The disappointment is that opportunities were there early in the season, and we didn't seize them. So while I'm happy, I'm disappointed that by the end of the season we were fighting for fifth place when we should, if we had seized our opportunities, have been fighting for third."

"Don't get me wrong, it's been a huge improvement."

"Communication between personnel, working methodology, controls over finance, controls over wastage, better utilisation of our facilities, designers working together instead of working off at tangents. The team's been a cohesive team. There's not one area that we haven't improved. The management's improved, the atmosphere's improved, the determination, the drive. The heart's got stronger in the team."

"Yes, we couldn't do any worse. The hardest year for us was the first year, because we built up, stupidly, our expectations and the expectations of the public. Therefore the perception on the outside was that it was a lousy year. The reality was that it was a hard year, but probably an understandable year."

"I think the whole second half of the season came together brilliantly. Races like Indianapolis and Suzuka were just brilliant races for us. What's been the highlight has been seeing it get better and better and better all the way through. And also Jacques Villeneuve re-signing for the team."

"Obviously you have to ask them...but it was key, absolutely key."

"Very. He was so determined that he wasn't going to get into a situation where there would be any form of politics. We spent the whole year making a huge effort to keep the politics out of it, and I'd say my biggest disappointment this year has been the end of the season when it became blatantly obvious that politics were creeping back into it. I'm ignoring it totally. I'm not interested, they can do what they want. It's of no interest to me. And I think that's what Jacques needs as well."

"It hasn't been created by me. Let them do what they want. They can't do anything in any case."

Obviously Barry has been a friend for a long time. I've got no idea what's happening because I haven't particularly shown an interest in it. It's somebody else's problem."

"It's not a question of invitation - if I could see a position that I thought would be appropriate for somebody that has his skills, then I wouldn't hesitate. Just as if there were a better chief designer than our chief designer available, would we look at them? Yes. If there was a better technical director than Malcolm, then of course we should look. But I believe in everybody we currently have in place in the key positions, and Barry would definitely be a key position man. I have got no understanding as to why you'd want to create an extra level of management when everything seems to be working. The proof of the pudding is in the results."

"I won't be supporting them."

"Everything in life is possible..."

"There's no tension between me and Adrian, because I never see him. Where's the tension? Adrian and I get on like a house on fire."

"Anyone who wants to take British American Racing in a different direction from the way I want to take it is of no interest to me, because the only way to take this is forward and up. And to do that your heart's got to be in it, and the heart of the people has got to be behind who they perceive as doing that. I'm really very at ease with the way we're going."

"It's been good. Not without its difficulties, but it's never easy at the start of any new relationship to actually get the rules and the guidelines and the orders to work within in. At the start with Honda we had to find our way, and now we've got a very, very good working relationship, and certainly what they're putting into the programme is top. The good thing is that they have exactly the same vision and exactly the same goals as us. We went out and we got them in. Eddie [Jordan] has done a brilliant job in getting them convinced that they should supply a second team, and I take my hat off to him for that, but it's up him to make sure that Honda stays behind them as well. All I'll be worried about is Honda with us, not Honda with Jordan. In the next two years we will have the most powerful engine in F1."

"It's not a question of fitting in. I think there's nobody to blame; it's not Ricardo, it's not us, it's not Jacques, it's not me. Ricardo came into F1 as a rookie driver, having always driven the best. He came into a brand new team where he probably had the worst at that particular time. For the first time in his career he really had to fight with very bad equipment. So it was a probably a bad move for Ricardo to come in year one; in year two it was totally different. If this was his first year it would have been a very good first year, but it was his second year. Now the best thing for Ricardo is to cut the ties, and do what Heinz-Harald Frentzen did; just leave the team and go into a new team where he can potentially flourish."

"I'm ecstatic. I think we've got an exceptional driver line-up for next year."

"I'll tell you next year! I thought already at Prost that Panis was a talent. I think the fact that he has shone so well during a testing programme at McLaren, during which he probably hasn't always been driving the best material - and he has been consistently fast, with test parts, and not always the best tyres - means that Panis is capable of doing what Coulthard and Hakkinen do in a car. If I'd taken Hakkinen or Coulthard and put them in a British American Racing car next year, nobody would be asking me do you think you've got a good driver line-up? I think he's got the experience of all the McLaren test work, and I'm sure that he is able to come across not only with his driving talent but also the ability to tell us the differences between a McLaren and a British American Racing car. I think it's a very, very positive thing. I shouldn't be saying it, but that's fact."

"That's also why we've taken an older driver with experience who speaks the same language, and who can turn round to Jacques and tell him to piss off..."

"Yes, but he's not that sensitive."

"I think Panis is also very capable of getting the whole team behind him very quickly and will be willing to put the effort in to do that, and that will be Jacques' problem - will Jacques be able to keep his team behind him, will he not lose it? To me it's going to be a very, very healthy competition next year."

"I hope so. I think it will be great. The more that Olivier can slap Jacques in the face, the more Jacques is going to step up."

"Jacques has made it very clear... he has certain 'out' clauses in his contract. It depends how competitive we are, to be quite honest. If we are giving him a car that's winning races, Jacques will stay. If he's not winning races, then I think Jacques will be looking very seriously."

"Maybe there's truth, but it doesn't matter."

"Shit happens."

"Where's the personal criticism? In which area? The area of not being capable of building up a team?

"Neither do I. That's why I'm asking. You're saying there's criticism, but where? I don't know."

"That sort of thing is pathetic. If I'd told Flavio what Jacques is earning here, he wouldn't have got more, he wouldn't have got less from Benetton. It's not a question of bumping up the price. I never went and pushed up the price with Benetton - they came forward and offered. So how do you bump it up? Maybe you should ask Flavio."

"It's an extension of this year, and a consolidation of this year. I think to continually change is wrong. You should be perpetually improving, and that's what we're trying to do. We're improving not by cutting out, because we believe that what we have can be built upon. At the moment where we're improving is by hiring more people to build in to what we already believe is good. So it definitely is an extension of this year."

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