Mansell, who tested for the team at Barcelona last week, said: "I thoroughly enjoyed the test and the professionalism and atmosphere of the team was as good as any I have worked with. Having seen their facility, and the 1997 car, I believe the team can enjoy success next season and become serious contenders.
"The idea of the test was originally to have some fun but my natural, competitive instinct took over, and a return to Formula One became a serious possibility. However, after consultations, with my family and business advisers, I quickly came to realise that my schedule would not permit me to give sufficient time to the Jordan team."
It must be assumed Mansell was unconvinced about the potential of an alliance with Jordan, or that he was dissatisfied with their terms. He was seeking pounds 5m to drive next year while Jordan were insisting on a performance- related deal. Eddie Jordan, the team owner, said: "I believe Nigel can still be a winner, but I appreciate the honesty of his decision. The door will always be open for him at Jordan."
So it may still not be all over, but the chances of Mansell ever returning to F1 now appear remote. This decision could prolong the grand prix career of another Englishman, Martin Brundle. The 37-year-old will also have to accept a pay-for-points scheme, although at lower rates than Mansell. Also in contention is the Italian Giancarlo Fisichella.
Motorsport's governing body, FIA, are mounting a concerted campaign to avert a boycott of racing in Italy, following the charges of manslaughter brought against Frank Williams and five others over the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994. Williams have declared their intention to contest the charges and, in a statement yesterday, FIA said: "The best legal advice is that the six will be acquitted."
Ken Tyrrell has called for a meeting of fellow F1 team owners, while Flavio Briatore, the managing director of Benetton, has already said his team will not race in Italy if charges are upheld. That message will doubtless be percolating through the corridors of power in Italy, and the intervention of the FIA's president, Max Mosley, is designed to accelerate the process.
Yesterday's statement said: "The difficulty that FIA now faces is persuading international officials to carry out their functions at Italian events. The presence of international officials is essential if a race or rally is to form part of an international championship. "
Mosley has sent what is described as "an urgent memorandum" on the difficulties posed by Italian law, as it is now being applied, to the Automobile Club of Italy and asked them to transmit it to the Italian Government. Mosley said: "Whatever the outcome, no other country is involved and the Formula One world championship will not be affected; nor will the world and European rally championship."
Meanwhile, Lola have signed the Brazilian driver Ricardo Rosset and the Italian Vincenzo Sospiri for next season.
n Texaco have agreed a pounds 12m deal with ITV to be the broadcast sponsor of Formula One for the next three years.Reuse content