"While last year was a big improvement on our debut season, I am still not happy finishing 5th in the Constructors' Championship. Our aim in 2001 has to be at least a third place finish overall and to win some races - and with the team and ...
"While last year was a big improvement on our debut season, I am still not happy finishing 5th in the Constructors' Championship. Our aim in 2001 has to be at least a third place finish overall and to win some races - and with the team and infrastructure we now have in place, that is achievable and that is what I want."
So says a typically forthright and determined Craig Pollock, Managing Director of British American Racing. OK, so the newly monickered Lucky Strike BAR Honda team was Formula One's most improved last year but the rhetoric exuding from BAR Operations Centre in Brackley shows that complacency will not be tolerated and there is some way to go before 'the dream' is finally realised. Make no mistake: Lucky Strike BAR Honda are not in Formula One to make up the numbers.
So what's new for 2001? The car for a start. The BAR003 boasts electronic power-steering, while the gearbox has been substantially reduced in size and the overall race weight has dropped considerably. Allied to a far greater emphasis on detail, the quality of finish and a stunning new Lucky Strike livery, the BAR003 looks the part. "Last year no single facet of our car was really good or really bad, but in order to compete with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren we must ensure that every aspect excels. In the BAR003, we feel we have a car that can fulfil such high expectations," commented Craig Pollock.
Technical Director Malcolm Oastler added, "We are very pleased with the 2001 car. It has met all of the objectives that we set ourselves in the design brief last year. There have been some significant rule changes for this year and we are happy with our progression and the fact that we have been able to meet all of the necessary requirements. We have made a saving of around 30 kilos on the weight of the car and have already exceeded our original aerodynamics targets. It has been a very intensive programme and the team has done a really good job. We feel we are in good shape and looking forward to the season ahead."
British American Racing''s technological partner and engine supplier, Honda, have also been hard at work with the latest evolution of their advanced V10 power plant.
And the Japanese marque will also supply identical engines to the Jordan team in 2001. "We think that this sense of healthy competition will benefit Honda's long-term objective," explains Shoichi Tanaka, President of Honda Racing Development.
Meanwhile Lucky Strike BAR Honda has strengthened its own team line-up with two high calibre additions.
Frenchman Olivier Panis brings vast experience both in racing and testing to the team and has already proved himself a great asset in pre-season shakedowns of the new car. "I am very pleased with what I have found here. It has gone really well so far and that leaves me very confident for the season ahead," said Olivier.
Panis won't be fazed by illustrious team-mate Jacques Villeneuve either. Commenting on the demands of racing alongside Jacques, Olivier continued, "I know Jacques well, we communicate together and respect each other. I am looking forward to working with him. I always want to work with quick drivers."
In fact the team fully expect JV to be pushed to the limit by their new man. When asked about the potential rivalry Craig Pollock exclaimed, "Panis to push Villeneuve? Of course he will! I hope he really puts the wind up Jacques. It's good for the team to have such competitiveness between drivers."
Meanwhile, inside the garage, James Robinson joined the team as Chief Race Engineer from Williams. His vast experience will be vital to the team and his addition completes an intriguing re-union (with Jock Clear and Grant Tuff) of Villeneuve''s 1997 World Championship-winning team.
"There is no doubt that the addition of Olivier and James strengthens our hand and gives us an extra bit of quality. Also, the fact that we had several applications from other teams during the winter shows that people inside the sport appreciate what we are trying to achieve here," says Craig Pollock.
Lucky Strike BAR Honda has proved that it is here to stay. Now the team must prove it can beat the best.