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F1 still in Wheldon's plans
Alastair Himmer | April 18, 2006 12:25 IST
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 warm-up.
"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 business."
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.
"We'll have to see what happens when the right opportunity arrives."
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 future."
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