Firman confident after Japanese experience

By Derick Allsop
Wednesday 05 February 2003 01:00

Ralph Firman is confident he will be able to cope with the demands of Formula One this season. The 27-year-old, who has been given a three-year deal by Jordan, fills the last place on the grid for the new season which will feature four Britons: Firman, David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Justin Wilson.

He is confident the experience he gained racing in Japan for the last six seasons will prove vital when he makes his debut in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 7-9 March.

"I've been out there for a long time racing high-powered cars and that should help me mentally and physically in the next year," said Firman, who won the Formula Nippon series last year. "This will be my first season in F1 and I have worked hard to build up my experience in Japan, so although F1 will be something new I feel ready and quite comfortable with it."

Firman had seemed set to defend his Formula Nippon title – the equivalent of F3000 – this year with Brazil's Felipe Massa the favourite to succeed Takuma Sato as team-mate to Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella. But it appears Massa was unable to come up with the necessary sponsorship, reputed to be £3m-plus, to boost Eddie Jordan's budget for the season.

It is unclear how much money Firman will bring to the team although Benson & Hedges, one of the team's sponsors, and Ford of Ireland are reported to have contributed.

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