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Monday, September 30, 2002
Updated: October 1, 2:11 PM ET
Castroneves excited by F1 possibility

By Robin Miller
ESPN.com

Helio Castroneves
Castroneves
INDIANAPOLIS -- Helio Castroneves insists he's very happy driving Roger Penske's IRL race cars in the United States but he's also very eager to try Formula One if the right opportunity presents itself.

That opportunity surfaced here Sunday at the U.S. Grand Prix when it was revealed that Jaguar is seriously considering the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner for one of its two seats in 2003.

"I didn't know anything about it until Roger (Penske) told me he was talking to them (Jaguar) for me and he wanted me to talk with a certain person from Jaguar but I wasn't able to find him," said Castroneves on Monday from his home in Miami.

"I finally found Jackie Stewart and he said he would pass on the message to the right person. I'm going to call England (Tuesday) because all those people are flying back today.

"I want to know what's going on and I don't have any offer yet but if it's serious I'm going to go after this."

Penske, who has Castroneves signed for 2003 in the Indy Racing League, admitted recently he wouldn't impede Castroneves' chances if he had a chance to go to F1.

"I have no intention to leave that guy but, what a man, to do something like this," said Castroneves, who replaced the late Greg Moore on the Team Penske CART lineup in 2000. "Everything he does is with a handshake and he has been the best thing ever for my career.

"I'm very happy racing here in America for Roger and I don't want to give up what I have here to pursue a dream unless it's worthwhile.

"I'd just stay where I'm welcome but I must say I enjoyed my first experience with a Formula One car. A ride in F1 is something I grew up wanting to have."

A combination of Castroneves' impressive F1 test with Toyota two weeks ago at Paul Ricard in France and his marketability in the United States has suddenly put him on short list with Jaguar.

CART team owner Bobby Rahal, who ran the Jaguar F1 program for six months in 2001, doesn't disagree with that marketing logic.

"It makes sense, certainly, because as a Jaguar dealer I'm hard pressed to see what value we're getting out of the F1 program over here," said the three-time CART champion. "Unfortunately, F1 is just a blip on the radar over here. It's a passionate blip, but just a blip.

"Someone with North American flavor would help but the most important thing is to get a driver who can be competitive and who can be a leader and motivate the team."

I'm very happy racing here in America for Roger and I don't want to give up what I have here to pursue a dream unless it's worthwhile. I'd just stay where I'm welcome but I must say I enjoyed my first experience with a Formula One car. A ride in F1 is something I grew up wanting to have.
Castroneves

His fence-climbing following any victory has earned Castroneves the nickname of "Spiderman" and a popular following in this country. And posting the third best testing time (and beating F1 regulars like David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Salo) in France earlier this month earned him some instant credibility.

"My timing was off a little in the beginning of my test but I picked it up pretty quick," recalled Castroneves, who has also been mentioned as a possible test driver for Toyota. "I know I can turn right and left and if I'd have had one more day I know I could have picked up another second.

"As for being marketable in the USA all I can say is that I'm thankful for all the support I've received and I feel more American than Brazilian. Formula One is the most popular thing in Brazil but America gave me my real opportunity and I won't forget that."

Eddie Irvine is expected to be replaced by Mark Webber in one of Jag's seats next year while Pedro de la Rosa could be on the chopping block despite having one year remaining on his contract. Asked on Sunday morning if Castroneves figured in Jaguar's plans for 2003, Niki Lauda (Jag's racing boss) replied: "We will announce our lineup before the end of the season."

According to Joe Saward of InsideF1.com, Jaguar's board of directors will vote on Castroneves' fate this Friday.

"Everything is happening so suddenly and if I'm going to be sitting in a F1 seat next year then let's hope it happens," said Castroneves. "Right now I'm just a driver, you know the last person to know what's going on."