Two Skip Barber Grads in F1 in 2001?

Not since Michael Andretti drove for McLaren in 1993 has a Skip Barber trained driver driven in the world’s most prestigious formula. However 2001 may just see a change to that as not one but two Skip Barber trained drivers are poised to join...

Not since Michael Andretti drove for McLaren in 1993 has a Skip Barber trained driver driven in the world’s most prestigious formula. However 2001 may just see a change to that as not one but two Skip Barber trained drivers are poised to join the F1 circus.

The Benetton team has signed an option on Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia through this September during which the former Skip Barber Race Series competitor will have numerous tests with the team. The deal likely precludes Pizzonia from talking with other teams until September by which time Benetton will likely have resolved their driver line up for 2001. Pizzonia tested with the team in Spain prior to the Monaco Grand Prix, turning in some very impressive lap times. At the end of the multi-day test attended by several top teams including Jordan and Jaguar, Pizzonia had the sixth best time overall.

The silly season in F1 kicked into gear a little earlier this year following former Barber Pro Series driver Juan Montoya’s dominant performance at the Indianapolis 500. The rumor mill is already in high gear with some claiming that a deal has already been struck among Montoya, Sir Frank Williams, and Chip Ganassi to free the Colombian star from the Target Chip Ganassi Champ Car squad to return to Europe and race in BMW-Williams F1 colors next season.

Current Champ Car driver and former Formula One driver Mark Blundell told England’s Daily Mail newspaper that he believes Montoya’s ability rivals that of two-time Word Driving Champion Michael Schumacher’s.

“I raced against Ayrton Senna and Michael in F1, and considered them to be two incredibly gifted drivers,” Blundell told the Daily Mail. “Now I've competed against Juan over here in CART, and it is my belief that he is one of those exceptional talents than only come along once in a while.”

There has been no word officially from Montoya, Ganassi or Williams. Sir Frank has gone far enough to say that Montoya’s immediate destiny rests with Ganassi until Montoya’s three-year contract expires.

-George Tamayo

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Michael Schumacher , Michael Andretti , Mark Blundell , Ayrton Senna , Skip Barber , Chip Ganassi , Frank Williams
Teams McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan