April 17, 2006

Formula One still in Wheldon’s plans

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will
not rule out a dream move to Formula One as early as next year
-- but it would take an offer he could not refuse.

Wheldon, the first British winner of the Indy 500 since
Graham Hill in 1966, ended speculation about a switch to F1
after his contract with the Andretti Green Racing team expired
by joining Ganassi Racing last November.

But last season's Indy Racing League champion admits that
Formula One remains his passion after holding talks with
several teams last year.

"I did have offers to go to Formula One," Wheldon told
Reuters in a recent interview. "I do love Formula One --
there's no doubt about it. It's what I grew up knowing.

"But I felt none of the offers were good enough in order to
leave America. If I accomplish what I did last year I think
that would be a good opportunity to move on."

Wheldon's form in winning six IRL races almost earned him a
move to the BMW-Sauber Formula One team.

"I was going to be a test driver to start with but they
couldn't necessarily guarantee me a race seat for 2007," he
said before this week's Indy Japan 300 race.

"I wanted a way of being judged so that if I did a good
enough job I would get moved up. They couldn't set anything out
in stone to give me that opportunity.

"I have huge amounts of respect for (BMW-Sauber's
motorsport director) Mario Theissen but we will just have to
see what the future holds."

Wheldon, whose manager Julian Jakobi also represents
McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya, insists he is in no rush to make
the step-up to Formula One.

Wheldon's quest for back-to-back IRL titles began with
victory at the tragedy-hit Homestead-Miami Speedway, where
rival driver Paul Dana was killed in a crash during the race


"I've got a point to prove this year," said Wheldon, who is
bidding for a third consecutive Japanese victory his week. "I
wanted a new challenge. I want to win in a different team.

"Right now my focus is Indy cars but you never know in this

The 27-year-old with the movie star looks remains a hot
commodity, however, and is aware another successful IRL season
could see him emulate Montoya's jump to Formula One in 2001.

"I said when I first came here that I wouldn't ever think
about leaving the States until I'd won the Indianapolis 500 or
the championship," said Wheldon.

"I thought personally the opportunity might have arisen
last year where I could have done something with Honda in
Formula One but it didn't.

"We'll have to see what happens when the right opportunity

Wheldon's immediate goal is to keep on doing what he does
best -- dominating the opposition.

"People forget about you if you are not winning
consistently," he said. "Let's continue to do that and see what
doors open then.

"Formula One's always been a great passion of mine. Mr.
Jakobi is staying ahead of what's going on and planning for my