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banner Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
BAR stick with Villeneuve, Panis
BAR-Honda driver Jacques Villenueve
Jacques Villeneuve: Confident of success next year
Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis will continue to drive for the British American Racing Formula One team next year.

It will be Villeneuve's fourth successive year with BAR - and he has another two years to go on his contract.

Frenchman Panis has been rewarded for an impressive first season with the British team, in which he has been neck-and-neck with Villeneuve on pace.

Team boss Craig Pollock is confident driver stability will allow BAR to challenge the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and the resurgent Williams next year.

BAR-Honda driver Olivier Panis
Olivier Panis: Committed to the BAR cause
Villeneuve, 1997 world champion, said in a team statement: "I have been with the team for three seasons - since the beginning - and during that time there has been a steady progression.

"We work well together and that is important for the team to move forward and make the necessary progress."

However, the Canadian has criticised his team this year for failing to make progress.

Villeneuve renewed his contract last year in the belief that BAR would be able to challenge for race wins.

In fact, they have been further away from the front than they were in 2000. Worse, they are being outpaced by Jordan, who are using the same works Honda engine for the first time.

He had been linked with a move to the McLaren team, as had Panis.

Hakkinen staying?

But Frenchman Panis insists he is more than happy to continue driving for BAR.

"When I joined it was because Craig, the team and the partners had faith in my ability to come back into full-time racing and be successful again," he said.

"In return, I had the same faith in them and their ambition to fight with the top teams in the Constructors' Championship.

"Things haven't always turned out as we expected, but it means a lot to me we still have the same confidence in each other."

The BAR announcement would seem to suggest that Mika Hakkinen will stay on as David Coulthard's partner in 2002.

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