Despite its anticipated sponsor carrying a whiter-than-white name, Formula One debutant Manor Grand Prix has admitted that it would consider running Nelson Piquet Jr in its first season, despite the disgraced Brazilian being centrally involved in the race-fixing scandal affecting last year's Singapore GP.
Team owner John Booth told the local Yorkshire Post
newspaper that he hoped to be able to finalise his driver line-up by the middle of November, with Piquet's name being thrown into the mix alongside Britons Anthony Davidson and Adam Carroll, and former Red Bull driver Christian Klien, despite Booth admitting that he had yet to speak to the former Renault pilot.
The FIA gave Piquet Jr immunity from sanction in the Singapore affair after he confirmed suspicions that the outcome of the race had been manipulated when he was asked to crash out in the early laps. Team boss Flavio Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds have both been handed lengthy bans from motorsport after being deemed guilty of orchestrating the incident.
"I've not spoken to him at the moment, but he's a smashing little driver," Booth said of the former GP2 Series runner-up, "I've no personal problems with him, but it is unclear what his current position is with regards sponsorship."
Booth also confirmed that he he had begun to discuss possible drives with the other candidates being linked to his squad.
spoken to Christian, but nothing more, and I've had a chat with Anthony Davidson," he noted, "Meanwhile, Adam is a driver we rate very highly, and we have held talks with him. It's amazing the amount of quality drivers that are out there."
Booth also confirmed that work is underway not only on the team's first Cosworth-powered F1 car - which is being designed and built in conjunction with former Simtek owner/designer Nick Wirth - but also an extension to the team's facilities on the outskirts of Sheffield.
Meanwhile, the same report also claims that the anticipated deal with current Brawn backer Virgin is due to be announced around the time of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The deal could see the team renamed Virgin F1, will provide not only much-needed finance for the 2010 season, but also the secondment of senior Virgin employees to help with team management.