Motor Racing: Mansell put on spot by Prost

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The Independent Online
ALAIN PROST yesterday put pressure on Williams-Renault to settle the fate of Nigel Mansell by announcing that he will end his year's absence from Formula One by driving for the British team next season.

Mansell, on the brink of becoming Britain's first world champion for 16 years, has repeatedly said he is opposed to Prost joining Williams, prefering to keep Riccardo Patrese as his partner and protect his status as the team's No 1 driver. Patrese, however, has been linked with Benetton.

Mansell, who has won eight grands prix out of the 10 so far this season, can cement his first world title in Hungary next Sunday, and Williams, aware of the public's reaction should Mansell be ousted, have been striving to reach an agreement with him for months.

As well as personnel problems, Mansell's salary is thought to be a stumbling block, and although the likely outcome is that he will stay at Williams, there has been talk of an Ayrton Senna-Prost combination for next season. This is despite their strained relationship when they raced together for McLaren-Honda. Mansell's team chief, Frank Williams, was adamant yesterday that no contracts have been signed. 'Negotiations are going on,' he said, 'and we expect to make a statement quite soon.' A spokesman for Renault in Paris denied any agreement with Prost, saying 'it's another rumour'.

Prost, however, was much more forthcoming. 'I'm coming back to win another championship. This is why I have signed with Williams, the best team at the moment,' he was quoted as saying in the Italian daily, La Repubblica, yesterday.

Prost, now 37 and three times the world champion, took a year off after being dismissed by Ferrari before the end of the 1991 championship. He revealed he had reached a general agreement with Williams before the start of this season.

Of his departure from Ferrari, Prost said it was a 'painful, humiliating affair'. About the possibility of racing for Williams with the Brazilian, Senna, the Frenchman said: 'I don't know who's going to team with me. Once, for staying in the best team, I was ready to face a difficult co-existence with a team- mate. Now I've changed my mind.

'I want to have a serene championship. With Senna this is not always possible. Senna is the best driver. He is one thousand times better than Mansell. But he does not exist in human relations.'