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   Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 16:17 GMT
Panis fears for Button's future
BAR's Jacques Villeneuve
It is five years since Villeneuve won the title
Olivier Panis believes Jenson Button will struggle to make an impression at British American Racing if Jacques Villeneuve is part of the team.

Button replaced Panis at the Brackley-based outfit and will get his first taste of the new Honda-powered 005 in a three-day test at Barcelona, starting on 15 January.

But Frenchman Panis believes he is in for a difficult time this season.

According to Panis, Villeneuve is driving better now than during his world-title winning campaign in 1997 and will be determined to prove he is still one of the best.

"I don't know Jenson very well. I think he is quite good but Jacques is a really tough person," said Panis, speaking at the launch of Toyota's new car.

If BAR give him a quick car then I know he will do well

Panis on Villeneuve

"He is really quick and maybe he is even better a driver than he was five years ago. I like him and respect him because he is very quick and very strong.

"If BAR give him a quick car then I know he will do well."

Villeneuve's future at the team he joined in 1999 from Williams is already the subject of speculation even though their new car will not be launched until next week.

The Canadian has said he wants to get back into a competitive car and has been linked to Ferrari.

BAR boss David Richards is also looking to cut back on Villeneuve's reputed 13m salary should he decide to stay in 2004.

Panis' main concern after being replaced by Button is staying ahead of BAR as Toyota embark on their second season in Formula One.

The 36-year-old claims the move has given him a great chance of finally adding to his solitary career win, which came with Ligier in Monaco in 1996.

"I am sure that Toyota will win one day and I want to win another Grand Prix before I retire.

"I hope it will be early on but realistically it won't be this year, I mustn't be stupid. But I know that we can make a step forward and close the gap with the others."

See also:

14 Dec 02 | Formula One
23 Jul 02 | Formula One
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