Tyrrell spurred on by old boy network of F1

Derick Allsop meets a man relishing the start of the grand prix season
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The Independent Online
Formula One is an ever- shifting landscape, but some things never change and, as regular as Old Father Time, and despite recent indifferent performances, Ken Tyrrell duly appeared for his annual launch.

This time, however, there was cause for renewed optimism and purpose. The season beckoning is Tyrrell's 30th, and he faces a reinforced challenge as he confronts the prospect of a midfield contest with Jackie Stewart, his most distinguished old boy.

Stewart's much-trumpeted arrival as a team chief appears to have sharpened Tyrrell's appetite. Stewart has secured a factory deal with Ford for V10 engines while Tyrrell, having parted company with Yamaha, has Ford V8 units, but defeat at the hands of the man who won three world titles in his car is a scenario he dares not contemplate.

Tyrrell, who unveiled his latest car in London's Leicester Square on Monday night, said: "I told Paul, Jackie's son, to tell his dad we're going to blow him into the weeds. Paul said I should tell him myself, but I told him I didn't think Jackie could stand the shock."

Good-natured wind-up it may have been, but Tyrrell will be anxious to avoid acute embarrassment when the F1 tour opens with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 9 March.

"I'm not thinking about being embarrassed because I don't expect to be beaten by Jackie," Tyrrell said. "He's going to find it difficult, as I'm sure he knows. It's going to be hard to make the jump to running a team in Formula One.

"When we started you could buy a car from someone, which is what we did for the first couple of years. Now it's much more complex, building your own car and setting up the whole organisation. But Jackie is a determined person, and I'm sure he'll make it in the end. It's just that it will take time and people must understand that."

It is taking Tyrrell rather more time than he would have liked to rejoin F1's heavyweights. Stewart's championship successes were back in 1969, 1971 and 1973. The team last won a grand prix in 1983. This season, Tyrrell predicts, he will have a more competitive car/engine package, and believes the signing of the Dutchman Jos Verstappen, in place of Ukyo Katayama, to partner Finland's much-vaunted Mika Salo, gives him one of his strongest driver pairings for years.

"It is my job to get the right package for the team, so recently I've not been doing my job right," Tyrrell said. "We had an appalling season in 1996 - only five points, eighth in the constructors' championship - really bad.

"Ford and Cosworth should give us the reliability we require and Jos is a young driver I have been very impressed with. It was difficult for him when he was first thrown in by Benetton alongside Michael Schumacher - it was an almost impossible situation. But last year with Footwork he looked very good and I'm delighted to get him.

"I'm equally delighted Mika is still with us. People have been trying to take him away from us and I can understand why. He has a lot of talent. I'm sure they'll push one another and that will take the team forward. It's what we need."

You might imagine the last thing Tyrrell needed was a 30th season in the manic world of F1, but he laughs off any suggestions of retirement. "It is still the same for me as it was in 1968," he said. "I have the same enthusiasm, the same nervousness at the start and waiting for our cars to come round at the end of the first lap. I love it.

"This season we want to have a number of podium finishers and show we are capable of running with the top teams. We have to get it right. We should know if we have on 9 March."