Motor Racing: Salo can resolve Jordan problem

CRAIG POLLOCK, the chairman of British American Racing, is recommending his reserve driver, Mika Salo, as the man to take over from Damon Hill at Jordan.

If Hill retires after tomorrow's British Grand Prix, Eddie Jordan will have the task of finding a replacement before the next race, in Austria, a fortnight later. Jordan has indicated that Salo does not figure high on his list of candidates, and Nick Heidfeld, the Formula 3000 championship leader, has emerged as a contender for the job. But Pollock believes Salo, who had three races with BAR earlier this season, would prove the ideal team-mate for Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Pollock said: "I'm sure Mika would do a good job for Jordan. They have a very good car and I think he would be able to settle in fairly quickly. He wasn't able to show his true ability with us because we're a new team, still developing the car. It was difficult for him to really get into a race weekend with us."

Salo is contracted to BAR for the rest of the season and Jordan would have to pay Pollock compensation for the Finn. "Mika is our replacement driver but I would not be unreasonable," he said.

BAR had to call up Salo as stand-in for the Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, who was injured in practise for his home race. The 23-year-old confirmed his recovery by out-qualifying his senior partner, Jacques Villeneuve, for the French Grand Prix a fortnight ago. Villeneuve's displeasure was unconfined. It was rumoured the Canadian might even want his team to dispense with the upstart and potential embarrassment.

Pollock, once Villeneuve's manager, said: "There is no way we would get rid of Ricardo but certainly Jacques was hacked off about that. If it happened many more times the toys would be out of the pram.

"That situation is great for the team. We want Jacques to be pushed. We want someone to help him get the best out of himself. In fact, Jacques is very confident about this race. He thinks he's got a genuine chance of making the podium."

BAR have been wiping the egg off their faces ever since their pre-season hype. Adrian Reynard, their chassis partner and former technical director, even talked of a debut win. They have yet to score a point and Villeneuve expressed his dismay that Reynard was not a more visible figure in the operation. As a consequence, Reynard's title has been changed to vice- chairman.

"It was a case of clarifying the situation," Pollock said. "Jacques wasn't aware of all the circumstances and now he is. As a driver, he just wants to get into the car and drive."

BAR are to join forces with Honda next season, which means Formula One is looking for a new team to take up the vacant slot that had been allocated to the Japanese manufacturer. Pollock suggests Ron Dennis, boss of McLaren, could provide a solution.

"If I was in Ron's position, with his experience and his team's expertise, I would apply to fill that 12th place," Pollock said. "McLaren have a Formula 3000 team, so why not promote them to Formula One as their second- string team? It would surely be a sound business proposition."

A business deal taking the 22-year-old Heidfeld from McLaren's Formula 3000 team to Jordan may be on Dennis's mind. Heidfeld has won three of four races this season and would relish the opportunity. McLaren and Mercedes, meanwhile, would be able to gauge his potential.

Heidfeld said: "I'd love to drive for Jordan. They're a very good team and it would be an excellent opportunity."

Jordan said: "I don't know where this suggestion came from. Perhaps it's the German link and the romantic notion. We have traditionally made surprise choices. We like to give young drivers a chance but on the other hand experience is very important. Heinz-Harald has shown that. It's a toss- up which way to go."