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  Friday, 8 November, 2002, 15:50 GMT
BAR boss under threat
BAR boss David Richards
Richards has not cut costs as much as BAT wants

British American Racing boss David Richards is facing an uncertain future, sources have told BBC Sport Online.

The team's owner - the tobacco giant BAT - is said to be worried about the lack of progress made by the team since Richards took charge 11 months ago.

In particular, there is concern that Richards has failed to cut spending as much as BAT wanted.


We have great confidence in David Richards' leadership and in fact are discussing extending his contract with the team
Nick Brookes
BAT board member

BAT's faith in Richards' ability has also been hit by the relative lack of time he and his representatives spend at BAR's headquarters in Brackley.

BBC Sport Online's sources differ in their assessment of how vulnerable Richards' position is.

Most say that BAT is not actively trying to get rid of him but that questions are being asked about his performance.

Others believe that BAT is preparing to ditch him imminently.

But BAT has denied the claims.

Nick Brookes, the board member responsible for BAT's investment in BAR, refused to answer questions about the specifics of the company's claimed dissatisfaction.

But he said: "I fell off my chair when I read this. It is total tosh.

"We have great confidence in David Richards' leadership and in fact are discussing extending his contract with the team.

Jacques Villeneuve in the BAR-Honda at the 2002 Italian Grand Prix
BAR have had yet another disappointing year in F1

"We'd expect him to stay with us for as long as we are involved in F1."

There have been suggestions that discontent at a lack of return on an investment of more than 300m over four years could lead BAT to quit F1 by the end of next season.

But Brookes said he expected BAT to continue in F1 for as long as tobacco sponsorship is allowed - the sport is to introduce a worldwide ban in October 2006.

Even if Richards maintains his position at the helm, his tenure has reached a critical point.

He was drafted in by BAT when the company finally ran out of patience with original managing director Craig Pollock.

Pollock had run the team since it made its F1 debut in 1999 and presided over three seasons of overspending and underachievement.

BAT employed Richards' Prodrive engineering company - which also runs the Subaru world rally team - to manage BAR.

When he took over, Richards pledged to make the team world title contenders by 2004.

He made his presence felt within three months by sacking designers Malcolm Oastler and Andy Green, replacing them with ex-Williams aerodynamicist Geoff Willis.

But there has been little improvement in BAR's performance in 2002.

And that means a lot rests on the first car produced with Willis in charge, which will be next season's model.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Formula One
21 Jun 02 | Formula One
21 Mar 02 | Formula One
03 Jan 02 | Formula One
18 Dec 01 | Formula One
18 Dec 01 | Formula One
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