Mansell to make grand prix return at McLaren

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MOTOR RACING NIGEL MANSELL will make a full-time return to Formula One this year. The 41-year-old former champion has agreed terms with McLaren, the one team of the recently dominant triumvirate for whom the Briton has not yet driven.

Mansell, whose appointment is expected to be announced tomorrow, has had three stints at Williams and one at Ferrari. He returned from two seasons of IndyCars in the United States to race for Williams in the last three grands prix of 1994, winning the final event in Adelaide. But Williams decided not to extend the arrangement.

McLaren, powered this year by Mercedes, are hoping that Mansell's experience and tenacity will help the team close the gap to the world champions, Benetton.

It is an alliance once thought impossible. The managing director of McLaren, Ron Dennis, has never professed to be a fan of Mansell and often intimated he would not contemplate signing him. But business is business and the team needed a proven winner asa partner for Finland's Mika Hakkinen.

There was a hold-up over money, the negotiations said to have ranged from an offer of $7m (£4.4m) to a demand of $16m for a one-year contract. It is thought they have settled around the $10m mark.

With Johnny Herbert confirmed yesterday at Benetton-Renault, the United Kingdom has six drivers in the Formula One world championship.

Damon Hill and David Coulthard (Williams), Martin Brundle (Ligier-Mugen Honda) and Eddie Irvine (Jordan-Peugeot) complete the UK contingent. The odd man out is Mark Blundell, resigned to losing his place at Tyrrell-Yahama and unable to raise the sponsorship to buy a drive.

Mansell, although rejected by Williams, has no such problem with finance, and Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's impresario, played a significant part in convincing Dennis and his partners that this was an investment opportunity not to be missed.

The world champion, Michael Schumacher, is scheduled to switch from Benetton to McLaren next season. He is hoping that the input by Herbert on a full-time basis will help him keep his title, and Benetton believe the pairing enhances their prospects of beating Williams to the constructors' championship this time.