MOTOR RACING : Mystery over Mansell's future

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The mystery surrounding Nigel Mansell and his McLaren-Mercedes team deepened yesterday. Speculation mounted over the former world champion's Formula One future when his Woking-based team who are testing in Estoril deferred a scheduled statement at least until today.

The statement was said to be ready for release early yesterday morning but was eventually postponed amid growing rumours that the 41-year-old Englishman's career could be over.

Mansell is expected to miss the two opening races of the season in Brazil and Argentina because he cannot fit comfortably into the cramped cockpit of the team's new MP4/10 car.But in the absence of comment from the team, rumours circulated that the problems with the car went beyond Mansell's elbow room, even to the point that the driver had given it the cold shoulder as uncompetitive.

Sources close to McLaren said the long-expected announcement that another Briton Mark Blundell would replace Mansell for the first two races might indeed have more far-reaching effects, but those close to Mansell said that was unlikely.

Blundell flew to Lisbon on Wednesday and was seen at the Estoril track yesterday. He was expected to test the new car today.