Jordan confident with youth policy: Motor racing

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The Independent Online
Eddie Jordan has explored just about every avenue to lead his team out of Formula One's "second division", and now he predicts that a return to a youth policy will provide the missing momentum.

Such is his declared confidence in the uncut talent of grand prix's second Schumacher, the 21-year-old Ralf, and the Italian, Giancarlo Fisichella, he suggests Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill may have cause to regret rejecting offers from his Silverstone-based team.

Jordan, embarking on their seventh season in Formula One, have been unable to advance beyond the standard they achieved in their first. They have been stuck, frustratingly, in a fifth-place rut.

Their restless Irish owner decided he needed a proven race winner to break the grip of the top four - Williams, Ferrari, Benetton and McLaren, - but neither Hill nor Mansell could be lured.

That seemed to secure Martin Brundle's job at Jordan. Instead, with characteristic assistance from Formula One's marketing magician, Bernie Ecclestone, the 24-year-old Fisichella, was released from his long-term contract with Minardi and headed for Jordan, along with a cash bonus.

Along with the pounds 4m-plus earmarked for Hill or Mansell, Jordan had useful extra funds to invest in an expanding staff and important technical development. The car, the Peugeot- powered 197, unveiled in London yesterday, is a product of that financial redirection. But will two novice drivers be capable of extracting its potential? Jordan maintains they will.

"I have been enormously impressed by both these drivers," he said. "I believe I have the best young pairing in Formula One.

"Nigel saw what we were doing but was unable to give the time required at the moment. It is possible he will regret that decision.

"Damon chose not to join us for a variety of reasons, not just money. He felt he would be more comfortable in the situation at another team."

Jordan's drivers have yet to run the new car but already the feeling inside the camp is that Fisichella, rather than Schumacher, might emerge as a new star. Michael Schumacher had one race with Jordan before joining Benetton and going on to win two world championships. Ralf acknowledges he has a difficult act to follow and, by all accounts, faces a similarly tough proposition competing with the Italian.

A first win for Jordan would strengthen his chances of retaining Peugeot next year. He is aware the French company have set up a deal with Alain Prost, who is poised to take over Ligier.