Monday June 11th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Formula One rivals Jaguar and McLaren move the focus from the race track to the courtroom on Tuesday in the latest stage of their battle over the contract of top designer Adrian Newey.
Both are confident of success, with Jaguar team principal Bobby Rahal saying at the weekend's Canadian Grand Prix that he had not given up all hope of bringing the McLaren technical director over to his team.
"The facts are on our side," he said.
Jaguar, who say Newey has signed a legally binding contract with them, announced last week that they had secured an injunction at the London High Court restraining McLaren from renewing Newey's contract beyond its expiration in August next year.
McLaren, adamant that Newey is staying beyond his current contract, in turn said that their lawyers would be present at a hearing in London on Tuesday and were confident that the injunction would be lifted when the facts were presented.
Rahal, a friend of Newey from their days racing together in America, suggested the hearing was unlikely to be the end of the story.
"I'm not bitter. we have a legally binding agreement that was ignored," he said. "So unfortunately its going to the courts. I'm the last person in the world to want to see that happen but I've got to defend our rights. An injunction is nothing more than that the court has recognised that there is an issue here.
"On Tuesday there will be discussions on both sides, they will argue that what we have isn't binding, even though Queen's Council has declared it so, and of course we'll argue that there was awareness on McLaren's part that this existed."
"That court will determine if in fact there's been a violation," added Rahal. "But even if it turns it over, that's not really the end of it by any means. However, if that court rules in our favour then it's a pretty terminal situation for them."
Rahal said he believed Newey had been genuine about wanting to join Jaguar but "something happened in a very short period of time to change all that."
Newey is rated as the sport's top designer, a man whose cars have won twelve world titles over the past decade for Williams and McLaren, whom he joined in 1997. He has said he changed his mind about joining Jaguar and now wants to stay at McLaren.
"Everybody in life changes their mind," McLaren boss Ron Dennis told reporters at the weekend. "It happens to all of us. He changed his mind. He's not working for Jaguar, he's working for McLaren.
"All the circumstances surrounding that and the issues coming from it will be discussed in the right environment with the right qualified people.
"That environment is not the pitlane, it is not the media and everybody knows exactly where these things need to be resolved and that's where it will be resolved. I am absolutely certain that Adrian will be with us in heart and head for the next few years.
"What has been presented to you has been misleading, it has not been factual and as things unfold at the appropriate time you will come to appreciate that."
The saga has gripped Formula One for the past week and Newey's abrupt about-turn prompted a wry comment from Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine when asked whether Newey's reputation was warranted.
"As a car designer yes," the Northern Irishman said. "As a decision maker I'm not so sure."