Jordan set to offer Firman last seat in Formula One

By Derick Allsop
Tuesday 04 February 2003 01:00

Britain's Ralph Firman is due to complete this year's Formula One World Championship line-up and be confirmed as Jordan Ford's new driver today.

The 27-year-old Formula Nippon champion has seen off competition from Brazil's Felipe Massa and another Briton, Gary Paffett, to partner the Italian, Giancarlo Fisichella, at the Silverstone-based team.

Firman, from Norwich, virtually disappeared off the Grand Prix racing radar after winning the British Formula Three Championship in 1996. However, his exploits in Japan have not gone unnoticed by Jordan, who are satisfied he has the ability as well as the commercial clout that they require.

Jordan, who have lost their title sponsor Deutsche Post and laid off staff last year, want to agree a long-term contract with their second driver to ensure future stability. "I would love to be in Formula One, it is what I have always dreamed of. It would be great to be racing against guys like Juan Pablo, Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli, who I raced against in F3," Firman said recently.

Firman is reported to have had a seat fitting at Jordan's factory yesterday and is expected to be formally named as the replacement for Japan's Takuma Sato, now with BAR Honda, today.

Paffett, the 21-year-old German Formula Three champion, could have the consolation of a test contract with Jordan or McLaren Mercedes. He has already impressed McLaren with his stints for them in winter testing.

Firman jogged the memories of the Formula One fraternity with a test for BAR late last year and Jordan came to the conclusion he could handle the job. He will test for his new team next week. His appointment means Britain will have four of the 20 drivers in this year's championship. The others are David Coulthard (McLaren), Jenson Button (BAR) and Justin Wilson (Minardi Ford). The season begins with the Australian Grand Prix, in Melbourne, on 9 March.

"He [Firman] has been at the factory today but we've not agreed terms with his management yet," Jordan's marketing director, Mark Gallagher, said yesterday. "We hope that everything can be finalised tomorrow."

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