Motor Racing: Money talks louder than talent: Many of the top Formula One teams are British, but not many of the drivers. Derick Allsop looks at the forces opposing the production of another Nigel Mansell

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The Independent Online
Britons in waiting

Martin Brundle, 33, Formula One, Benetton-Ford. Grands prix: 95. Best result: 3rd, France and Britain, 1992.

Johnny Herbert, 28, Formula One, Lotus-Ford. GP: 27. Best: 4th, Brazil 1989.

Damon Hill, 31, Formula One, Brabham-Judd. GP: 2. Best: 11th, Hungary 1992. Williams-Renault test driver.

Perry McCarthy, 29, Formula One, Andrea Moda-Judd, GP: 0.

Mark Blundell, 26, test driver for McLaren-Honda, Formula One. GP: 14. Best: 6th, Belgium, 1991.

Allan McNish, 22, International Formula 3000, 3001 International team.

David Coulthard, 21, International Formula 3000, Paul Stewart Racing team.

NIGEL MANSELL is Britain's first world drivers' champion for 16 years. However, we may already be wondering who will take over the mantle from Mansell and whether the next cycle of success will be similarly tardy.

The talent, we are assured by respected judges, is there, but the opportunities, we are reminded, are scarce. Too many drivers chase too few competitive cars. The point has been magnified by the situation at Williams-Renault. The world's leading three drivers, Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, have been vying for the two seats with the top team next year. Mansell's persistence, as much as his talent, elevated him to the higher echelon and yet even now he has not been able to escape the net of commercial consideration, which ensnares so many British drivers lower down the order.

Ken Tyrrell, the veteran team owner, admits he cannot do as much as he would like for his young countrymen. He gave Jackie Stewart the equipment to demonstrate his sublime skills, and whenever possible, has championed the home cause. In more recent seasons, however, he has had to accept the type of sponsorship-driver package deal which accommodates the ambitions of overseas hopefuls.

Tyrrell, who has an Italian, Andrea de Cesaris, and a Frenchman, Olivier Grouillard, in his team, said: 'I would always have liked one British driver and the ability is out there in our country. I have absolutely no doubt about it. But the fact of the matter is that only the top four teams in Formula One today - Williams, McLaren, Benetton and Ferrari - don't have to consider the commercial requirements and the nationality of their drivers. Every other team, including ours, has to.

'My phone rings every week with the offer of a driver with sponsorship, but always it is a foreign driver and a foreign sponsor. It is never a British driver or a British company. Just look at the young drivers who have come in recently - wave upon wave of them from Europe and beyond.

'Formula One is such an international sport, televised in more than 90 countries, that its benefits are available to sponsors on a worldwide scale. The problem from Britain's point of view is that there are very few British companies who market their product worldwide. Foreign companies with large amounts of money to spare are in a position to name their driver.

'Not that we should necessarily decry the concept of the bought drive. This is how Niki Lauda got into Formula One and how Michael Schumacher did, just a year ago. The trouble is that it is so difficult for young British drivers to get in, no matter how exceptionally talented they may be.'

Tyrrell cites the case of David Coulthard, a young Scotsman acknowledged as one of Britain's brightest prospects and now coming to terms with reality in the International Formula 3000 Championship. 'I've been asked by Coulthard's management people to take him on as a test driver and was told it wouldn't cost me much,' Tyrrell said. 'I told them they'd have to pay me because we don't have such resources.

'Here's a gifted young driver and yet, even suppose he wins every Formula 3000 race from now until the end of the season, the chances of his getting into Formula One are remote unless he can find a couple of million pounds to help a team. Companies want involvement with drivers from their own country. It's not the way it ought to be but it's the way it is.

'Coulthard has been having a hard time this season but then Formula 3000 is very competitive and the experience will be character- building. The most important thing for him is that he's getting the mileage and racing in good company.'

Coulthard, 21, was runner-up in the British Formula Three Championship last year and is now competing in his first season of Formula 3000. Another Scotsman, and the runner-up in the 1989 British Formula Three Championship, Allan McNish, is in his third season at this level and finding progress difficult to make.

At the age of 22 he still has time on his side and connections with Marlboro and McLaren, as a test driver, should serve him well. Tyrrell said: 'I keep tabs on the likes of Coulthard and McNish and I'll watch them again in their Formula 3000 race at Spa.'

Mark Blundell, released by Brabham at the end of last season, chose to test drive with McLaren- Honda this year rather than toil in an uncompetitive Formula One team. Tyrrell said: 'I would have been interested in taking on Blundell because here is an example of the talent we have in Britain. He is a driver I rate.'

Damon Hill, Williams-Renault's test driver, is also highly rated and has distinguished himself by twice qualifying the Brabham-Judd this season, but he, like Blundell, seeks the opportunity to express himself fully. Perry McCarthy has made a Formula One entrance of sorts with Andrea Moda-Judd, whose troubled season ended prematurely yesterday when they were banned for tarnishing the image of the sport.

Mansell apart, the only two Britons regularly on the starting grid this season have been Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert. Brundle was introduced to Formula One by Tyrrell in 1984 yet has had to wait until this year for a genuinely competitive car, at Benetton-Ford. After an uncertain start to the championship, when he was overshadowed by the precocious Schumacher, he has produced a string of confident performances and scored points consistently.

Brundle may fear, however, that circumstances are conspiring against him. Possible victories in Canada and Belgium eluded him and his place at Benetton next season will be taken by Riccardo Patrese. Brundle clings to the hope that he might get a job with McLaren, even Williams, otherwise it is back to the ranks of those who make up the numbers - or the end of another Formula One dream.

Herbert has had an erratic mid- season spell, but Tyrrell has no doubts about his potential. 'Johnny's on his way,' he said. 'He's one of the emerging stars and he ought to go all the way.'

Tyrrell added: 'The incentive is there for all of them to keep pushing, as Mansell did. Nigel's success has greatly increased the following of motor racing in this country and that could help the cause of those coming up behind him. We don't want Mansell retiring. We want him back at Silverstone next year, bringing in another 150,000 to 200,000 crowd. We need the momentum to be sustained, so hopefully we don't have to wait another 16 years for our next champion.'

(Photograph omitted)

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