CART driver Alex Tagliani thinks Team Player's isn't living up to its side of the bargain after dumping him in favour of another Canadian, Paul Tracy, the Globe and Mail reported today.
Although Player's promised to help him find a ride in 2003, since he and his agent met team officials early this month, the 30-year-old Lachenaie, Que. native says they've stopped returning his calls.
"My agent and I met with Player's in Las Vegas Dec. 5 and that's the last I've heard from them -- I don't know how to look forward to the 2003 season not knowing where I'm going to race and who I'll be racing with," he told the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper.
He made the comments to the Canadian newspaper while at Jacques Villeneuve's 24-hours of Tremblant charity ski event.
With Player's parent company, Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., embroiled in a Quebec Superior Court challenge of marketing, advertising and sponsorship restrictions on tobacco, Tagliani supposed the company has other things on its mind lately.
Rothmans Inc., Benson & Hedges Inc. and JTI-Macdonald Corp were also part of the unsuccessful court case that ended last week.
He thinks Tracy was hired to appease CART buy keeping the experienced driver left in the series and perhaps to use as a bargaining chip in negotiating some cash for the third car the team considered earlier this year. But, despite helping the series keep Tracy, Tagliani thinks Player's didn't get the kind of money they were expecting from CART and the team dropped the idea of a three-car Canadian team.
But, he added, the decision to hire Tracy came as a complete surprise to the Quebec racer.
"I was already getting ready for next season thinking the team was changing to the Lola chassis and will probably be more competitive, and then all of a sudden, four races before the end of the season the team doesn't want me to stay there," the Globe and Mail reported. "They way things turned out, they put me in the worst position possible and it makes it very tough to sleep at night -- there's a lot of stress and it's not fun."
Tagliani finished the year in eighth place (111 points) in the CART standings.
While Tagliani has been linked to the Newman/Hass team, he'd rather stay with Player's, even after the recent snubbing.
"My first option is to get a phone call from the guys at Player's who say they're going to go all the way with three cars and be in a team where I wanted to be a championship contender since I arrived in CART," he told the Globe and Mail. "I like (Carpentier) a lot and we work well together and I'd be back with my mechanic that I've worked with since racing in Formula Atlantic."