Jordan wary of Mansell's demands

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Nigel Mansell must accept a performance-related deal if he makes a Formula One comeback with Jordan-Peugeot next season. The 43-year-old is expected to tell Jordan in the next 24 hours whether or not he wishes to return, but a positive verdict could be only the start of complex contractual negotiations.

Mansell is understood to be seeking about pounds 5m, a price which may have been determined by the figures quoted when Jordan were attempting to sign the 1996 champion, Damon Hill.

However, Jordan regard the Mansell of today as a lesser known quantity than Hill and cannot have gathered conclusive evidence from last week's test in Barcelona. Mindful of Mansell's ill-fated venture with McLaren, they are wary of making an unconditional commitment of pounds 5m.

Eddie Jordan, the team owner, has constantly maintained he would never run the risk of bankrupting his organisation. The public humiliation would also be too much to bear.

Jordan has lined up financial support from Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's impresario, but it appears that ITV, new television guardians of the sport in this country, are unwilling to throw a little extra into the Mansell "pot".

It is likely Ecclestone will insist on a pay-for-points scheme, which Benetton and Nelson Piquet once employed to their mutual satisfaction. That would effectively throw the ball back into Mansell's court and provide the first test of his resolve.

Ecclestone contends that if Mansell decided to race, there would be no repeat of his McLaren fiasco. "I think if Nigel feels he can do the job then he should," Ecclestone said. "I don't think he would make another comeback unless he was certain about it. He doesn't want to go through what he went through over the McLaren drive."

That comeback ended in ignominy - ironically at the Spanish Grand Prix circuit - 19 months ago, when Mansell abandoned his car, claiming it was undrivable.

"I don't think he should have stopped in the first place," Ecclestone said. "He's now lost nearly two years and I haven't a clue what he might do. He's the only one who can know.

"It's not a case of Formula One needing him back because Formula One is bigger than any driver. People said Formula One would be finished when we lost Senna, then when Prost and Mansell retired. But it wasn't.

"The people who will benefit if Nigel comes back and does the job are Jordan and Ralf Schumacher. I gather there should be a decision very soon and I'm sure it will be the right one."

Mansell is anxious to erase the memory of his capitulation at McLaren, a blot on a career otherwise illuminated by spectacular success and drama. He is adamant he still has the ability, fitness and desire to do the job.

Driver and team express themselves content with the times Mansell achieved in testing, his best falling just three- tenths of a second outside the fastest by Jordan's other driver, Ralf Schumacher, younger brother of Michael.

But then, as one insider said: "That may tell you more about Ralf Schumacher than it does about Mansell." It is also suggested that Peugeot are less than enthusiastic about these developments involving Mansell.

Still waiting in the wings in the hope of reclaiming his drive with Jordan is Martin Brundle. He has maintained a dignified silence during the hullabaloo surrounding Mansell's projected comeback and would be prepared to re-sign for a fraction of his compatriot's asking price.

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