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   Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 12:06 GMT
BAR launch crucial season
Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button pose with the new BAR
Villeneuve, Button and BAR are entering a crucial year
The struggling British American Racing team have unveiled the car that could determine their long-term future in Formula One.

The new BAR 005 is the first car to be designed since the team was fundamentally overhauled by new boss David Richards at the beginning of last year.

It has been overseen by new technical director Geoff Willis, who was recruited from Williams where he was chief aerodynamicist from 1997-2001.

Richards was employed by the tobacco giant BAT, the team's owner and chief shareholder, to turn around the fortunes of the outfit.

Jenson Button
I want to be world champion and I believe that they are capable of taking me there

Jenson Button
BAR have proved to be a huge black hole for BAT's finances since they made their debut in 1999.

That means Willis' design will be carefully watched to see if its performance suggests the team can start to turn around their form and become a competitive force - or be labelled perpetual also-rans.

Richards said: "2003 will be a challenging year for BAR but we have made a substantial step forward over the winter.

"I am confident that we will make significant progress towards our long-term target of winning the world championship."

The car at least looks modern - Willis complained upon his arrival at the team that BAR had been using technology that was three years out of date.

The year is also crucial to the future of both BAR's drivers, Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve, and their engine supplier Honda.

Honda dominated F1 in the late 1980s and early '90s, but its performance has been disappointing since its return in 2000.

Generally its engines have been under-powered, and when they finally produced competitive power at the end of last season, they were too heavy.

Honda will be desperate to perform this season in order to prove they are still a force - and to overshadow Japanese rivals Toyota, who started their own team in 2001.

BAR boss David Richards
Richards is under pressure to turn BAR around
British driver Button joins the team after two unconvincing seasons with Benetton/Renault and needs to perform well to keep his career on track.

Button impressed in his debut season with Williams in 2000, but was outpaced in 2001 and 2002 by team-mates Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli.

If he suffers the same fate at the hands of his BAR team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, it will almost certainly spell the end of his career as a potential front-line F1 driver.

Button believes that BAR can one day take him to the world title.

"I want to be world champion and I believe that they are capable of taking me there," he said.

Villeneuve, too, is heading into a critical year.

The Canadian has not won a race since he won the world championship with Williams in 1997 and after falling out with Richards last year is likely to be looking for a new team for 2004.

If he is to have any chance of landing a seat at a top team, he must beat Button this year.

See also:

15 Jan 03 | Photo Galleries
14 Jan 03 | Formula One
13 Jan 03 | Formula One
10 Jan 03 | Formula One
10 Jan 03 | Formula One
09 Jan 03 | Formula One
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