Dixon to get serious shot at Williams-BMW seat in upcoming tests INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 25, 2004 -- Reigning IRL IndyCar(R) Series champion Scott Dixon is held in high regard by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, as his upcoming two Formula One...
Dixon to get serious shot at Williams-BMW seat in upcoming tests
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 25, 2004 -- Reigning IRL IndyCar(R) Series champion Scott Dixon is held in high regard by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, as his upcoming two Formula One tests in the Williams-BMW are genuine, full-fledged evaluations to see if he will be one of the team's drivers for the 2005 World Championship season.
"There are a number of people that we are interested in, and Scott Dixon is one of them," said Patrick Head, technical director and part owner of the Williams team.
Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner who joined Williams-BMW in 2001, has signed to drive for West McLaren-Mercedes in 2005. Ralf Schumacher has yet to renew his Williams-BMW contract for next season.
So Dixon, the talented, 23-year-old New Zealander, could drive for Williams for the entire 2005 season, including the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We have at least one place on the team that we have to fill," Head said. "We have not filled it yet. We have talked to a number of people. A number of people who could be available have limiting clauses in their contracts that might mean that they are available, or it might mean that they are not available.
"It is always useful to know that if people that we might be talking to are not available, where we go from there."
Dixon will have two tests in the Williams-BMW. The first test, at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet in southern France, will take place March 26. This will be a chance for Dixon to familiarize himself with a F1 car. He will then have an intense, three-day test in early April at Barcelona, Spain.
"He is running for a day at Ricard," Head said, "and it is really for him to do acclimatization so that it will give him a bit of time to think about it before he runs sometime later at Barcelona.
"It is just for an opportunity to have a look at him. He's a young chap. He's openly stated that he'd like to be in F1. He was the IRL champion last year. We are interested to have a look at him and let him have a look at F1."
Dixon's performances in the high-speed close competition in the IndyCar Series races, where he drives for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, have impressed the Williams-BMW team.
"His record in a short period in IRL, which is very high-speed racing, says we should give him a try," said team owner Sir Frank Williams. "There is not a lot of opportunity to test championship-winning people from another formula during the season. This (the IRL) is a high-speed formula. Juan Pablo came from a formula similar to that and did well (in F1)."
Montoya was racing in the CART series, and winning the Indy 500, in 2000 while Dixon was showing his talent by winning the Indy Lights championship that year. It will take a bit of time for Dixon to get out of the "oval" groove of the IndyCar Series and back into a road-racing groove, Montoya said.
"In the last one or two years, he has been doing ovals," Montoya said, "so it is going to take a little time to get into the rhythm, especially in an F1 car. He's pretty good. I think he will do all right.
"In the first test, I don't expect anything from him, but in the second test, he will be a little bit more competitive. It will be a good experience for him."
The fact that Williams-BMW driver Schumacher is from Germany will have no bearing on whether his contract will be renewed in 2005 even though BMW is a German company.
"It is important to us to have the two quickest drivers available," said Mario Theissen, BMW motorsport director. "If one of them is a German like Ralf, that is a bonus, but it would not influence of our decision. F1 is a global business. The nationality of the driver is not too big an issue."
If Dixon does switch to F1, he will be the latest in a string of drivers who have raced in North America and then come to the Grand Prix scene. He would follow in the footsteps of 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Zanardi, Montoya and Cristiano da Matta.
Da Matta raced against Dixon in CART and is now in his second season with the Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 team.
"The grooved tires and the light weight of a F1 car are the two biggest things that he will have to get used to," da Matta said of Dixon's F1 test.
"He won the IRL championship, which is a difficult championship," da Matta said. "Obviously, it is only ovals, but he is a good road-course driver, as well, if you look at his background from the races he's done in CART.
"He will have to get a bit better shape physically because he has only been driving on ovals for so long that he might have lost a bit of his neck muscles. But as for his ability, I'm pretty sure that he is not going to have any problems. It is always difficult, but I am sure that he is going to be all right."
USGP tickets: Tickets for the 2004 United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 20 are on sale, and the IMS ticket office encourages customers to place orders early to ensure the best possible opportunity to acquire good seats.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.