Shock for Jordan as Alesi opts to retire

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Jean Alesi confirmed yesterday that he will end his Formula One career at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka this weekend.

The 37-year-old Frenchman is being replaced by Jordan with the Japanese driver Takuma Sato as the partner for Giancarlo Fisichella next season.

Alesi is one of only five drivers to have raced in 200 grands prix – Sunday's will be his 201st. He now looks to be in line for a position within the Jordan team.

"I won't race next year," he said in Suzuka yesterday, "but it is not completely clear what I will do. But for sure I won't drive in F1."

The Frenchman was sitting alongside the team owner Eddie Jordan at a press conference when he made his announcement. His words appeared to take the Irishman by surprise and, clearly moved, Jordan immediately paid tribute to his friend, while also hoping that he might be persuaded to stay on as a test driver.

Alesi has been linked recently to the Arrows team and has also spoken of making the switch to the American CART series. But he said last month that he was not interested in being a Formula One test driver.

Jordan hoped otherwise. "Jean said he doesn't want to race any more but I hope he's going to do some test driving," he said. "We need his experience. I think what he said was that he's retiring from racing."

"He has so much experience and knowledge still to give Formula One. He understands the reasons for our decision. For me personally, it was a very tough decision to make because Jean is such a dear friend.

"But we have had to re-structure for the future and Jean understands that."

Alesi's sole Formula One victory came at Canada in 1995 in his Ferrari days and he has been a podium finisher 32 times.