Wednesday March 28th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Luciano Burti shrugged off speculation about his Formula One future on Wednesday and said he hoped to convince Jaguar to keep him next season and ditch Eddie Irvine instead.
Brazilian Burti is in his first full season at the Ford-owned team, who have already said that Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa will be one of their two drivers in 2002.
Rumours have already appeared in print suggesting that the 26-year-old newcomer could be axed - possibly within a few races - unless he shows more impressive form.
But Burti told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos that he had been assured his departure was not imminent.
"Pedro has already signed a contract for next year and the other driver is not decided yet," he said.
"Both myself and Eddie have options on our contracts. It could be myself, it could be Eddie."
"He (Irvine) has more experience, he is the number one and therefore has more chances. But that doesn't mean it is a certainty. I have to try and persuade them (Jaguar).
"I'll be trying to prove that I deserve a place at Jaguar and I know that my future in Formula One will be guaranteed if I can do a good job this season."
Burti's record so far this season has been better than Irvine's in terms of race results - eighth in Australia and 10th in Malaysia compared to the Briton's 11th and a retirement.
But Irvine, who scored all of Jaguar's meager four points last season and has a year remaining on his lucrative contract, has qualified considerably higher up the grid.
The Brazilian said he had a good relationship with Irvine, despite being shy, unlike the extrovert former Ferrari driver, and praised him as a hard-working professional.
"I love working with him. He's told me it's the best relationship he has had so far in Formula One," he added.
Burti, who has slammed the rumours about his future as "media speculation gone wild", also said he welcomed de la Rosa's arrival as Jaguar test driver.
He said team bosses Bobby Rahal and Niki Lauda had explained the situation to him - that they needed an expert test driver and had to offer him more than just money to accept.
"They did the right thing by hiring Pedro and my place in the team will depend on my results," he said.
"When I joined Formula One I knew what to expect," he added. "Formula One is more than just a motor race. There are many interests involved and power struggles, so many rumours are spread.
"Last year many people said I'd be replacing Johnny (Herbert) during the season and it never happened and was not true.
"When the rumours started that I'd leave before the end of the season I went to Bobby and asked him. He explained that... would be quite impossible to happen."
Burti suggested it had simply been his turn to go through a rumour mill that has since turned its attention on Brazilian Rubens Barrichello's place at Ferrari and would doubtless find another target after that.
Rahal, talking by telephone from Florida, also found himself forced to speak up for the Brazilian once again.
"I don't know how many times I have to say this," he declared. "Either nobody believes me or they are not listening very well but our two drivers are Luciano and Eddie.
"As Luciano knows, I have said to him that we will give him 100 percent of our effort."
Rahal revealed that Burti had been hampered in Malaysia by the team loading on far more fuel than he needed during the race and was confident the Brazilian would do a good job at Interlagos.
Rahal said Jaguar needed to improve their qualifying and were still between half and three-quarters of a second off rivals Jordan and BAR although reliability had improved.
The aim was to qualify in the top 10 at Interlagos.