Zanardi and Williams separate
LONDON, Jan 21 Italian driver Alessandro Zanardi parted company with the
BMW-Williams Formula One team on Friday. The decision was mutual and followed
a difficult 1999 world championship season for Zanardi and Williams,
a team statement said.Zanardi's departure leaves the way clear for British
prospect Jenson Button or Brazilian Bruno Junqueira to fill the vacancy.
The pair will duel for the job in further testing at Barcelona over the
weekend and the successful candidate will partner number one driver Ralf
Schumacher in this year's grands prix. The new recruit will be announced
on Monday provided sufficient laps are completed.
Longest day for beaten Brazilian Junqueira
BARCELONA, Jan 24 - While Jenson Button celebrated becoming Formula One's youngest driver on Monday, Brazilian Bruno Junqueira made the bitter discovery that a day is a very long time indeed in motor sport.
Team owner Frank Williams, who announced the signing of the 20-year-old Briton at a team launch at the Barcelona circuit, revealed that Junqueira might have got the drive had the decision been taken on Sunday.
The BMW-Williams engineers, who work closely with the drivers in setting-up the cars, favoured the Brazilian after a week of testing interrupted by technical problems.
``Last night the vote was towards him (Junqueira)," said Williams "We had a discussion about it and that is what the general tendency was at the time.''
But he said that Button's youth -- he turned 20 only last Wednesday -- had worked in his favour.
When Williams woke up on Monday morning, the consensus had turned decisively in his compatriot's favour.
Button got the Formula One drive while Junqueira was taken on as an official tester.
"We felt that in the long term, given that what he (Button) had done already in the car was truly exceptional, that it was probable that he would continue to get much better,'' said Williams.
Junqueira told Reuters that Frank Williams had informed him of the decision only a few minutes before the news conference started and insisted that Button, while a very good driver, had not outperformed him.
"He did not beat me,'' said the Brazilian, who explained that track and atmospheric conditions were different for each during the test sessions in Jerez and Barcelona.
Williams said of Button: ``One (factor in his favour) was to arrive within two laps, at a very quick time on a circuit with which he was scarcely familiar. (A second) was his consistency and rhythm.''
Button said of the Williams car: ``The straight line power is unbelievable. I couldn't stop laughing to start with.''
Despite appearing completely at his ease in front of reporters, Button said he had been more nervous before the announcement than at any stage in his life and had wiped away a few tears when Williams told him his decision.
"I was tingling all over my body and I went out and saw my father and said Dad, 'I'm a Formula One driver.'
"He started crying and I got upset,'' he said.
HARD WORK BEGINS NOW
The hard work starts now and Button, who has never made pitstops or completed a race distance in a Formula One car let alone experienced the rigours of the Monte Carlo street circuit, has plenty to get his teeth into.
The season starts in Australia on March 12.
"I've got a month and a half and I'm sure that's long enough,'' he said.
"I've been trying the pitstops every time I come into the pits, trying as fast as I can to work with the speed limit.
"I'm learning and I'm sure over the next few days we'll be pushing very hard to learn it even faster.''
At ease with the media, he welcomed the attention given to Britain's youngest ever F1 driver.
"love it at the moment. It's what I want to do.
"When the first race comes it's going to be a great experience for me. Not just Michael (Schumacher) but the whole F1 grid and everything that goes with it.
"I really can't wait to get there.''