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JANUARY 24, 2001

Raikkonen to be guided by Eeckelaert in 2001

FORMULA ONE new-boy Kimi Raikkonen will be guided in his rookie season by chief engineer Jacky Eeckelaert -- one of the most accomplished backroom members on Formula One.

Raikkonen, who drove in just 23 single-seater races before being given a seat at Sauber for 2001, is likely to benefit greatly from Belgian Eeckelaert, who has worked for Jordan, Prost and Peugeot in the past.

Sauber team principal Peter Sauber also backed Raikkonen to make a big impression at the launch of the Swiss team's C20 car in Hinwil on Wednesday.

"From the moment he first sat in one of our cars in Mugello in September last year Kimi showed himself to be a most unusual young man," Sauber said.

"He had never driven anything more powerful than a Formula Renault at that point. But he did not put a wheel wrong and managed to set highly impressive lap times.

"In subsequent tests he continued his remarkable form which made him impossible to overlook as a candidate for the second C20 seat.

"His performance in Jerez where he convinced the F1 governing body of his suitability to hold a superlicence was simply an endorsement of the potential that we saw back in September.

"We know that it will take Kimi time to find his feet in F1 once the racing starts but our expectations of his long-term potential are very high."

Sauber added that Raikkonen would be given equal status within the team with German Nick Heidfeld and expected the team to perform significantly better than last year.

"We have set great hopes in Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen and expect them to achieve better results than we had last season.

"They have integrated very well and will make a significant contribution. Nick had a troubled first year in F1 but he immediately proved his ability when he first drove our C19 car in Jerez in December.

"In Barcelona two weeks later he was one of the fastest drivers on the track underlining the true strength of his potential. In his second season in F1 he will be in a much better position to make a contribution to his team, in terms of both his unquestionable speed and his feedback which will further help the engineers to develop the car."

Sauber unveiled the C20, which has a stronger monocoque, improved aerodynamics and reduced weight compared to last season's C19 model. The car was developed as a result of 35 weeks of wind-tunnel research using a 50 per cent scale model in Emmen.