The Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 team will keep its current driver lineup of Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta for next year. Where does this leave 1997 world champ Jacques Villeneuve
The team, now in its second year of competition, is enjoying one of the strongest periods of its history. It briefly held a 1-2 in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last month, and Panis and da Matta finished fifth and sixth respectively in Sunday's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
"I am pleased to confirm that both Olivier and Cristiano will drive with Panasonic Toyota Racing for the 2004 season," said team principal Ove Andersson. "They have both performed very well throughout this season – and have played an integral role in developing the TF103 race car.
"We look forward to continuing our work with both Olivier and Cristiano as one team to try to aim for a higher position in the constructors' standings in the remaining races of this season and to build upon our highly commendable performance in 2004."
Since the latter half of the 2002 season, many F1 insiders have speculated that the Cologne-based team could recruit the outspoken Villeneuve, who is also a former CART champion, to help build Toyota’s sporty brand image in Northern America.
BAR team boss David Richards is reportedly unwilling to keep paying the Canadian’s R120 million-a-year salary for another year. With Villeneuve desperate to find a spot on next year’s grid, the Toyota announcement seems to have sealed the Canadian’s fate… He will now, in all likelihood, return to the US-based CART series next year.
Original article from Car