Musical Chairs At Jaguar Prost
April 19, 2001 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Burti’s first race with his new team will be the Grand Prix of Spain (April 29).
Although Jaguar was slow to confirm the announcement, the team has since said test driver Pedro de la Rosa will step into the seat earlier than expected.
According to Burti, he was discussing the possibility of driving for Prost next season when the opportunity arose to replace Mazzacane now, and he jumped at the chance to switch teams.
"It was the best option to my future in F1," Burti said. "I have been talking to Alain since the Brazilian Grand Prix (April 1), but I didn't imagine I would drive for the team this season as I had a full-year contract with Jaguar. It was definitely the right thing to do as I can now be in a team that can give me great perspectives for the future."
Prost called the circumstances "a well-timed series of events."
"As soon as it was clear Gaston was no longer driving for us, it was evident to Luciano Burti would be a good replacement, and negotiations were done quite quickly," Prost said. "Luciano has already shown good potential so far this season. I'm sure that, as the AP04 will develop in the races to come, he will be given all the means to prove himself and to be a competitive teammate with Jean Alesi."
Mazzacane, who drove for Minardi last season and had a performance clause in his contract with Prost, has not yet made a public statement regarding his future.
Burti had two top 10 finishes with Jaguar this year, in Australia and Malaysia and then finished 18th in Brazil and 11th in San Marino. Mazzacane had four DNF’s with Prost this season, finishing as high as 12th.
De la Rosa signed with Jaguar in the off-season, after first making a verbal agreement to be the test driver for the Prost team. A verbal melee ensued and Prost threatened to take legal action against Jaguar, but reports indicate that such threats have subsided. Jaguar Racing officials admit that de la Rosa signed on with the intention of driving for the team full time in 2002.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and it lays to rest the speculation that has surrounded my recent moves in F1," de la Rosa said. "I came to Jaguar Racing because the long term potential for the team is obvious and I believe that Bobby Rahal and the team are fully focused on the job in hand. I must emphasis the crucial role Bobby has played in the negotiations that have brought me to this point. A lot of hard work went on behind the scenes and Bobby was instrumental in pulling this deal off."