Motor Racing: Mansell remains Williams' choice

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The Independent Online
THE picture may still be far from clear, but at least Frank Williams, the managing director of Williams, clarified one significant point when he stated, unequivocally, here last night that he wanted Nigel Mansell to stay with his team next season.

As world champion, and as a Briton in a British team, renewal of his contract would doubtless have been automatic in any other sport. In Formula One, however, few things are what they seem and behind-the-scenes activity has stalled negotiations.

Williams remained guarded when he arrived here for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, yet confirmed he knew which two drivers he wanted and that Mansell was one of them. 'I have always said I wanted Nigel,' he said.

Williams, who is expected to name Alain Prost as his other driver, went on: 'These things can take time. It could be sorted out tonight, it could be Christmas. I'm not being obstructive, I don't know. I thought we were close in Germany, I thought we were there in Hungary. I can't say precisely what is holding up things. These things are very delicate. The important thing is that the right decision must be made.'

Williams was unconcerned that he might confront the wrath of the great British public should Mansell be lost to the sport. He said: 'As an Englishman, I would like Nigel to stay. But there are many considerations. We get no money out of Britain. None of our sponsors is British. This is a business, and my concern is what is best for Williams Engineering. If everyone in Britain came to me with a pounds 10 note, it would be different.'

Mansell is accompanied here by his financial adviser, perhaps an indication of his intent. Still uncertain where he might now find the goalposts, he would say only: 'My main consideration will be what is best for me and my family. I won't be rushed. There may not be anything this week or even next week.'

Victory for Mansell here would give him a record total of nine for the season and, ironically, secure the constructors' championship for Williams. Patently dismayed by developments - or lack of them - he said: 'My motivation may not be quite what it would have been had I still been going for the drivers' championship. I may take more time going past backmarkers and may not hang it all out in qualifying. We'll have to see.' Once he is strapped in his car, however, I doubt we will see anything but the familiar Mansell.

We might be seeing Mark Blundell at McLaren next season because Gerhard Berger will return to Ferrari and Senna, like Mansell, has indicated it will be Williams or nothing. We will not be seeing Damon Hill here. His team, Brabham, are not competing, claiming they are concluding the sale of their beleaguered organisation. Consequently, pre-qualifying has been scrapped, which means Perry McCarthy should at last have a reasonable run in his Andrea Moda Judd.