Alan van der Merwe, former British Formula Three champion and currently South Africa’s biggest hope for F1 stardom, will test for BAR Honda at Jerez this week.

Alan van der Merwe, former British Formula Three champion and currently South Africa’s biggest hope for F1 stardom, will test for BAR Honda at Jerez this week.


Van der Merwe, who struggled in this year’s F3000 season, and British drivers Adam Carroll and James Rossiter were selected from a group of nine assessed by BAR as part of the team’s Young Driver Programme.


The two-year programme aims to evaluate young talent currently vying for the attention of the top Formula One teams and put the group through a series of activities designed to measure their current physical, mental and driving abilities, as well as their capacity for future development. The results were evaluated by a team of experts to determine those drivers with the most potential to benefit and develop from the two-year programme.


BAR Honda's senior race engineer, Jock Clear, said the initiative was not about finding an understudy to race drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato.


"It is about developing the talent of the future on a structured two-year programme which will hopefully prepare them for the unique challenge of Formula One," he said.


"The jump from the junior formulae is huge. However, by guiding and supporting these drivers, we hope the long-term benefit will see them make the grade with BAR in the future."


BAR said the three drivers would each have two half-day sessions in this year's Honda-powered BAR 006 car. "The team is looking for the driver who has the most potential to develop over the next 24 months," a team spokesman said.


"While raw speed is important, so too is the enthusiasm to listen and learn, the motivation and commitment to improve and the intelligence to make the most of the opportunity that BAR will provide," it added.


Johannesburg-born Van der Merwe, 24, won the Formula Three title with the Carlin Motorsport team. Carroll was runner-up in the same series this year while Rossiter was third.


Van der Merwe was last month named as the probable driver of South Africa's team entry into the A1 GP series, and drove a few demonstration laps in one of the A1 cars at Kyalami.