Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang

JORDAN Grand Prix team is looking at 2002 and will use the first half of next year to get its new Honda engine right.

It is not that Eddie Jordan's team is writing off next season's world championship.

In fact, with the Mugen-Honda engine scuttled, the Buzzing Hornets clearly believe they have what it takes to mount a challenge in 2001 despite the teething problems in the early part of next year.

The big push for the F1 crown, though, will come the following year.

It has already signed British American Racing's Ricardo Zonta as its third driver next season, joining German Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Italian Jarno Trulli.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, Jordan said: "We suffered a lot of pain this year and that is why we have already begun for next year with an interim car out in December.

"Honda has a huge reputation, a great name. But the first part of the year is to get to understand and work with each other.

"But the target stays, despite the 'familiarisation' period: the top three.

"We have to start winning races again, pole positions - if we don't develop the car for 2002, we would have failed."

The Irishman said this year has been a huge disappointment after last year's highs of winning two Grand Prix races, but noted that Jordan was the only other team outside the big two of McLaren and Ferrari to win a race in the last three years.

"In order for us to compete against McLaren and Ferrari, we had to make radical changes this year," he said.

Team Jordan Mugen-Honda finished sixth in the Constructors' race, three spots down from last year, while Frentzen and Trulli ended ninth and 10th respectively.

Jordan, who gave triple world champion Michael Schumacher his big break in Formula One, said he saw something special in the German when he spotted him on the Formula Three circuit in Europe 10 years ago.

"I saw something really talented, really special," he said. "It was a strange thing. I had the opportunity to sign Stefan Johansson, who was a close friend with experience.

"But I made a point to look at this guy and a lot of Germans then did not even know how to spell his name."

Schumi was not the only world champion that the Coventry City fan discovered. There was the late great Ayrton Senna in 1982 and Damon Hill in 1985.