Motor Racing: Brundle poised to join Williams

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MARTIN BRUNDLE is almost certain to take over Nigel Mansell's place at Williams Renault and the mantle of Britain's leading driver next season.

The 33-year-old former sports car world champion, released by Benetton-Ford, heads a posse of British drivers chasing the seat left vacant following Mansell's decision to retire from Formula One at the end of the season. Damon Hill and Mark Blundell are also contenders to partner Alain Prost but last night all the signs indicated that the job will be Brundle's.

Williams, anxious to regain public favour after the bad publicity surrounding Mansell's departure, feel recruiting a Briton would help their cause. Brundle is highly thought of by Camel, sponsors of both Benetton and Williams, and would not be a drain on resources, the issue which forced the split with Mansell.

Brundle did his cause no harm by taking second place behind Ayrton Senna in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Following a shaky start to the season, he has driven consistently well and has, over the summer, outscored his team-mate, Michael Schumacher, who is now second in the driver standings.

Frank Williams, the team's managing director, had planned to hold a press conference at his factory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, today, but now intends to make a statement on Thursday. That suggests he is hoping to be in a position to name his drivers for 1993.

Brundle said last night: 'I would love to be in the Williams team again. I drove for them in Belgium, four years ago, when Nigel was ill. I don't have a drive for next season, so all I can do is sit and wait.'

Williams are keen to set in motion preparations for the defence of their championship and Prost has been agitating to test drive. The team's new car, the FW15, is due to be put through its first paces today, although Hill, the test driver, is expected to be on duty.

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