Friday April 20th, 2001
Formula One team owner Alain Prost asked to borrow Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa from Jaguar before signing Brazilian Luciano Burti, Jaguar boss Niki Lauda said on Friday.
The Austrian also told BBC radio that Burti, who left Jaguar and replaced under-performing Argentine Gaston Mazzacane at Prost on Thursday, had agreed to a deal to drive for the French team until the end of next season. De la Rosa, the former grand prix racer who joined Jaguar as test driver this year and had already been promised the Brazilian's seat from the start of 2002, took over Burti's seat.
Prost had tried to sign the experienced Spaniard as test driver before the start of the season after Arrows dropped him but then lost out as Jaguar offered him a more attractive deal.
"Just before Imola Alain Prost rang me and asked 'is there a possibility', because he was not happy with Mazzacane," Lauda said. "He asked if he could borrow de la Rosa back and let him race for him (Prost) and test for Jaguar," Lauda added. "I told him very simply this is not possible because we want to use de la Rosa in his full way of testing. I think we found a deal that is good for everybody."
The former world champion said Burti had not been experienced enough to keep up with all the demands of the team whereas the Spaniard could push teammate Eddie Irvine harder. Lauda also said Jaguar still needed to slim down and had many things to improve. He added that the team really needed a new car before any significant improvements would be seen.
"All we can do now is improve the aerodynamics of the existing car which we are consistently doing... But my worry is let's say we find half a second in our aerodynamics, the other teams also develop their cars.
"So I think with the existing car, even if we do all the development possible between every fortnight's race, we will end up hopefully between eighth and 12th on the grid or somewhere like this. Really to make the next step forward you need a brand new car.
Lauda said no further staff changes were envisaged. "We need stability, we need to go forward with the existing people that we have, we need to drive together as a team and motivate them in a positive way to get the maximum out of the group we've got now," he said.