Friday June 1st, 2001
Jaguar Racing intend to see out their contract with Adrian Newey, which is signed and sealed according to team officials, even at the price of a costly and vicious legal battle, team sources said.
The team, which announced this morning the signing of star McLaren desginer Newey to become Jaguar's chief technical officer as of August 2002, were left stranded hours later, when Newey and McLaren issued a mutual statement claiming the Briton will remain with the Woking outfit until 2005.
"First of all, Jaguar signed Adrian Newey on Tuesday evening to a binding contract," Jaguars CEO Niki Lauda was quoted as saying. "If McLaren have also signed a contract with him then I shall be interested to see how he is going to design two separate formula one cars for different teams from 2002. Ron can jump up and down all he likes. We didn't steal Newey away from him, we did a deal for when his contract ends in 2002."
McLaren, on the other hand, are confident their current agreement with Newey is water-tight, perhaps explaining why the aerodynamicist was forced to retract his own statements of joyously signing with Jaguar.
The Daily Grapevine reported yesterday that Newey's contract with McLaren has a clause which prevents him from signing with any other team while his contract still has more than 12 months to run. Therefore, Newey would not have been able to legally reach an agreement with Jaguar before August 2001, a year before his contract expires, without being in a severe breach of contract.
Some pointed at McLaren's and Newey's mutual statement as adding more mystery to the plot and lending to the possibility that Newey will indeed move to Jaguar in 2002. This is due to the fact that the statement does not confirm Newey signed the three-year extention to his current contract but instead quotes Newey as saying: "I am delighted to confirm my intention to remain at McLaren International." If there's anything to be learned from today's events, it's that intentions can sway within hours.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company - Jaguar Racing's owner - has to face a Public Relations disaster which no one seems to understand how it came to be in the first place. No one, that is, but Newey.