According to paddock rumour at the Italian Grand Prix, Ralph Firman's injury-induced absence from the cockpit could be permanent - and not because the Briton is unlikely to regain full race fitness.

Although the luckless Jordan driver was in the garage at Monza, and professing that he should be fit enough to resume full duties at Indianapolis, the word in the paddock was that he may not be back in the car this season. Although his performances have been disappointing - albeit hampered by his lack of circuit knowledge and a poor Jordan chassis - Firman may find himself a victim of the current financial squeeze affecting F1 in general.

Zsolt Baumgartner was called upon to replace the sidelined FNippon champion in Italy, as he had in Hungary two weeks ago, having also managed to hold on to his Friday morning test spot alongside the other regular race pilot, Giancarlo Fisichella, when F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim was supposed to have had a run. The whispers when Baumgartner's presence for that session was announced suggested that the Hungarian had managed to pull a few strings and produce enough cash to secure another outing - and he then lucked into a second race appearance when Firman was ruled out by a vertigo problem arising from his Hungaroring shunt.

However, the twist in the tale is that the rumour mill also suggests that Baumgartner, despite being confirmed for the morning test session, was not the man Jordan wanted in the second hot seat come free practice and qualifying.

Indeed, the team only released its statement confirming the Hungarian's continued participation in the week during that two-hour session, suggesting that it was trying to track down a more experienced - or simply quicker - alternative. Media sources have named Williams-BMW tester Marc Gene as one target, while Wirdheim, despite his F3000 role, could have been another, although the Swede is reported to have little personal sponsorship - hence losing his test slot to Baumgartner.

What now remains to be seen is whether or not Baumgartner gets the third early morning test seat at Indianapolis - where Wirdheim is supposed to run, having finished his F3000 commitments - and whether Firman will be back at all.