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banner Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 17:59 GMT
Death of an F1 dream
Jacques Villeneuve and Craig Pollock could not realise their dream of success together with their own team
By BBC Sport Online's motorsport editor Andrew Benson

A Formula One dream has died this week with the departure of Craig Pollock from his job as boss of British American Racing.

The team was founded by Pollock and his friend, the former world champion Jacques Villeneuve, as an attempt to prove that they could take on and beat F1's best on their own terms.

They failed, beaten by poor results and huge overspending.

That, unsurprisingly, led to the dissatisfaction of the team's owner and title sponsor, the tobacco giant BAT.

Craig Pollock searches for inspiration
Pollock was beset by problems from the earliest days of BAR
BAT's initial funding for the team was 50m a year - not a vast amount for an outfit with world championship aspirations, but a pretty good leg-up, to say the least.

Nevertheless, BAR have had on a number of times to go back to BAT for top-ups of several tens of millions of pounds.

Pollock was plagued from the start by boardroom battles and speculation about his future at the helm.

Even before the team made their debut in Formula One at the 1999 Australian Grand Prix, his position was in doubt.

Honda boost

How new boss David Richards will cope with the team's continuing problems remains to be seen.

It will not be easy. But Richards has an even more pressing issue on his hands as he heads into his first season in charge.

BAR are in danger of slipping into the ranks of perpetual also-rans, and Richards needs to ensure that they keep hold of the things that can at least put a brake on that - Jacques Villeneuve highest among them.

Honda's decision to remain as engine supplier for another three years will be a weight off his mind. But teams need top drivers as well as works engine deals to attract the sponsors who pay the bills.

Jacques Villeneuve with his close friend and former team boss Craig Pollock
Villeneuve and Pollock have known each other for more than 20 years
Villeneuve's image may have slipped a little in 2001 as his frustrations with three years of failure at BAR got to him.

But he remains one of F1's best, most exciting and most marketable drivers.

Richards may of course decide that a reputed $15m a year for a driver now into his 30s is not the best use of the team's resources.

Many others, though, would argue that he is one of the few men who can still make a difference in a category increasingly dominated by the quality of machinery.

The problem for BAR is that Pollock's departure makes it unlikely that Villeneuve will want to stay.

Renault Sport president Partrick Faure and team boss Flavio Briatore
Renault bosses have chased Villeneuve in the past
He is contracted to the team until the end of 2003 - but has opt-out clauses that will almost certainly kick into play next season.

The 1997 world champion has already had a very tempting offer from Renault - the French car company wanted him to join its F1 team for 2001 and has made no secret of its desire to get him in the end.

Villeneuve turned Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore down that time because he believed that Pollock, his former teacher, would eventually turn the team around.

But with Pollock gone, Villeneuve would take no pleasure in that. For BAR is now just another team to him.

Villeneuve is still loyal to his chief engineer, Jock Clear, who joined BAR with him from Williams. But is that enough to keep him at a struggling team?

David Richards, new boss of BAR
Richards has his work cut out trying to keep Villeneuve
Offers will come in for Villeneuve this summer, and not just from Renault. With Pollock advising him as his manager again, the chances of him deciding to stay at BAR look pretty slim.

And that, whatever the future for BAR, would see the dream that founded the team consigned to the grave for good.

See also:

18 Dec 01 |  Formula One
Villeneuve commits to BAR
18 Dec 01 |  Formula One
BAR appoint new boss
17 Dec 01 |  Formula One
Boss splits with BAR
04 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Co-founder quits BAR F1 team
12 Oct 00 |  Motorsport
BAR lined up for management buy-out
10 Sep 00 |  Motorsport
Pollock facing BAR axe
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