Barrichello to join Stewart

Motor racing

Rubens Barrichello, the 24-year-old Brazilian released by Jordan-Peugeot, is the "experienced" driver chosen to guide Stewart-Ford through their formative period in Formula One.

Grand prix racing's newest team yesterday announced a three-year deal with Barrichello, who will partner Jan Magnussen, the Dane already signed on a long-term contract.

Jackie Stewart, the team principal, stressed his belief that stability would be crucial in their development programme and revealed a long-standing respect for Barrichello.

"We're delighted to have Rubens with us from the start," Stewart said. "We've seen his talent perhaps as few others have because we competed against him in both Formula Three and Formula 3000. He's got speed and his experience in Formula One is just what we need.

"We said from the outset we wanted a driver with Formula One experience alongside a young, up and coming talent. Rubens brings experience to complement the raw talent of Jan, but he is still young enough himself and can continue to develop his talent as he helps us build the team."

When Barrichello, who was born in Sao Paulo, graduated through the racing ranks, he was hailed as the natural successor to Ayrton Senna, emulating his countryman by winning the British Formula Three Championship. His chief opponent that 1991 season was Paul Stewart Racing's David Coulthard.

After competing against Paul Stewart in Formula 3000, Barrichello stepped into the Formula One arena with Jordan in 1993. Four seasons on, he parted company with the team, his career apparently in neutral if not reverse. The potential world champion had become one of the great under-achievers.

Stewart, however, appeared undeterred by suggestions Barrichello lacks the dedication and application required at this level, and has given him the chance to relaunch his Formula One career.

Barrichello said: "The kind of opportunity I have been presented with by Stewart-Ford doesn't come along every day - the chance to build a new Formula One team from the ground up. I wouldn't have done it at this stage of my career if I were not completely confident in Jackie and Paul Stewart's ability to get the job done."

n Heinz-Harald Frentzen made his debut in a Williams car on the first of four days of testing at Estoril, Portugal, yesterday. The 29-year-old German, who has moved from the Sauber team for whom he has driven since 1992, is to partner Jacques Villeneuve, replacing the world champion, Damon Hill, at the Oxfordshire-based team next season.