Blundell gains from Mansell's pain

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The Independent Online

He was resigned to standing on the sidelines, now he is sitting in for Nigel Mansell and, no matter how uncomfortable that may be, it is a joyride for Mark Blundell.

The car that would not fit the former world champion's requirements measures up precisely to the needs of Blundell, who hopes his performances at the wheel of the much maligned McLaren-Mercedes in Brazil, on Sunday, and Argentina, a fortnight later, will ensure long-term employment in Formula One.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for me," Blundell said. "I was going to So Paulo anyway, just to be seen, really, and talk to people for the future. Now I'm there to compete, in the McLaren, and I want to do as good a job as possible. That should help me get something in place for 1996.

"I'm back in the frame and it's up to me to stay there. There's no pressure on me. I've got nothing to prove. It's just that in Formula One you have to make sure you are not forgotten."

Blundell has turned down offers to race for two smaller teams, Pacific, the Norfolk-based operation, and Forti, the new Italian entrants. He preferred to negotiate a test contract with McLaren and now he has gone one, even two, better, racing for them while a new chassis is created for Mansell.

If the cockpit Mansell rejected is a pain for Blundell, he is not saying.What the 28-year-old Englishman is saying after 30-odd laps at Estoril is: "Certain modifications have been made and it's okay. I would have liked more laps but just to get in the car was important because I'd not driven for three and a half months.

"I'm just very happy to have these two grands prix with McLaren. I've tested with them before and I get on with everyone there really well. We're making progress very quickly. We've shaved off a lot of time already and the car should be sharp, and hopefully reliable, in Brazil."