MOTOR RACING; Zanardi's role at Williams unclear

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GERHARD BERGER, the head of BMW Motorsport, has refused to confirm that Alex Zanardi will be on the grid for Williams next season.

Berger will spearhead the return to Formula One of BMW when the Williams team lines up with the German company's engines aboard at the Australian Grand Prix in March. Zanardi had a deeply disappointing season this year and Berger said the decision would be made by the team manager, Sir Frank Williams.

"Frank is responsible for the drivers, we share our opinions but it is Frank's decision," Berger said at yesterday's launch of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

"We will wait and see what's going to happen," Berger added. "I think Alex is a great guy but let's wait and if it's relevant in the future then we can discuss it."

Berger yesterday admitted that the pressure on both BMW and Williams was increasing in testing as the first race of 2000 draws ever closer. However, he said that the team would not be making any rash predictions about their performances next year.

"We've been testing the engine in the car for the past two days and it's doing well but we still have a long way ahead of us," Berger said. "We have to be realistic. If we can show in the first year that we're working hard and going in the right direction and can be competitive we'll have achieved what we want. But it will be at least half a year before we can be competitive or win a race."

There is some irony in Berger's new association with Williams, as there had been several times the team had tried to entice him away as a driver.

"I was several times sitting in front of a contract with Frank, and now we are working together," said Berger.

Berger drove in a total of 210 grands prix for Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton.