Motorsport.com's Jeff Pappone caught up with Jacques Villeneuve's manager and British American Racing founder Craig Pollock last weekend at the pair's 24-hour charity ski marathon at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
Here's what he had to say:
Motorsport.com: We heard it last year, and the year before, that BAR will get better and it didn't. Last winter there was lots of talk about a better car and it didn't happen. Is the car really going to improve this year?
Craig Pollock: I think it's just the opposite, last winter Jacques immediately turned around and said it wasn't a well-born car. The driver knows literally within five minutes of sitting in the car whether he's going to have a good car, a competitive car or a bad car. We went into BAR with very, very high hopes for both of us -- we believed in it and there is no question that it didn't reach our expectations fast enough but we're really hoping that this year, even with the new management, that the car's going to be good enough.
It's a good team -- no matter what anyone says and all the talk about political infighting -- because the team is so strong that it doesn't matter who's fighting on a management level or on a board level, they can really keep it together.
Motorsport.com: Last year at Indianapolis, Jacques was talking about having an F1 car in 2003. Is that a reality?
Craig Pollock: Absolutely. I believe in the people I hired. Geoff Willis is I think a strong candidate for a technical director in any of the top teams and we have him and I expect he's made the difference I'd expect him to make but it takes a full year. This is the first car Geoff can get out with his own team, his chosen team.
Motorsport.com: How much of a difference will it make now that Honda has given up Jordan and is working with one team?
Craig Pollock: I started off by bringing Honda back into Formula One when I negotiated the contract between BAR and Honda and it was an exclusive contract. I was extremely disappointed when they didn't have the confidence in us, right or wrong, and signed up Jordan obviously to make sure they were covering their backs. Now they're back down to one team basically you're putting just about twice as many people into the program, or you're choosing the best out of all of the programs and putting them into one program, and it will have a huge effect on the development of the engine.
Motorsport.com: When you went to BAR and hopes were so high, was it a little bit of emotion talking rather than your mind?
Craig Pollock: I created BAR, so of course there was a lot of emotion, and when we did it, we seriously believe we could achieve results in a couple of years. I didn't think it would be the first year and certainly with an investment of a the three-year contract with Jacques, we thought within three years we'd see something positive coming out of it.
It's been difficult to find all the positive stuff and there's been lots of negative, but there's been a huge investment by both myself and Jacques in BAR and it would be a great pity to leave BAR just when it's turning around.
Motorsport.com: There are already reports of tension in the team and other things that are going on and the politics getting going with Jenson. How difficult is that to deal with?
Craig Pollock: Jacques has said the politics have been going on inside this team since Day 1 and there will always be politics inside a team. It just so happens that the construct of BAR is a little more complex and does lean toward political infighting. Jacques has put up with it but he just gets on with it -- he's a sportsman and all he wants to do is drive -- he's not interested in politics.
That's why at the same time when everything was happening with me, I turned around and just told him 'you have to get on with the team and you have to get on with Dave Richards.' You have to get in there and do your job and that's what he's done. I don't think it will have an effect for him.
Motorsport.com: Is that the most difficult thing, if you and Jacques leave BAR, it will be just as things get interesting? Emotionally that has to be tough.
Craig Pollock: It is very tough because he doesn't merit that. He's invested a big part of his career into it and he's invested his time to develop a car and develop the way for everybody to work together and it's been built around Jacques and to finally see him or Jenson (Button) on the podium on a regular basis and for them to say 'OK right, we're not going to keep you anymore' is like saying 'OK we used you and goodbye.'
Motorsport.com: Is what the top teams do next year going to influence where you look for a ride for Jacques Villeneuve in 2004?
Craig Pollock: What will the influence in reality will be the first true tests for the 2003 cars. We'll see which teams seem to have made progress and that will make me react in a certain direction. I also understand why a team like McLaren took a step backwards -- you cannot change everything and that's what they did, they took their eye off the competition and more onto the business side -- exactly what we did with BAR in years one and two.
Motorsport.com: Obviously there's an emotional attachment with Ferrari and many fans would love to see him there--
Craig Pollock: It's not just fans, it's the whole sport--
Motorsport.com: But, with Michael Schumacher there and the contract that Rubens Barrichello has, would Jacques consider going to Ferrrari under those conditions?
Craig Pollock: No, I don't think he would and I don't think the sport would let it happen. I think the sport is actually turning around to change the rules in such a way that there's no No. 1 drivers and No. 2 drivers, basically to stop the fiasco that was started by Ferrari in Austria last year. And it's the right way to go.
Motorsport.com: Jacques said that if things don't go well next year and he doesn't get an offer he likes, he'll stay home in 2004. Is that something that will be seriously considered?
Craig Pollock: He has to get the right drive and he is literally the only driver who has beaten Michael Schumacher in Michael Schumacher's career and he merits good equipment round about him. If he can't find the right team that's a decision he'll have to make.
He will be there in 2004 and that's my objective and my job. If he's not, then I've done a bad job.