Motor Racing: New deal may secure Mansell's future at Williams

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NIGEL MANSELL'S future with Williams-Renault may be resolved today. He could be made a formal offer to stay with the team and defend his world championship next season.

Mansell, team officials and sponsors are due to have talks here intended to end the weeks of speculation, claim and counter-claim. Renault, for one, are exasperated with the public squabbling which has overshadowed the double championship success.

It is understood there have been heated discussions behind the scenes and Frank Williams, the team's managing director, was in Paris yesterday en route to this circuit, where Mansell attempts to achieve a record ninth victory of the season in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Mansell said: 'I understand Frank is coming here with an offer and my future may be sorted out here this weekend. I hope to be in a position to clarify everything by Saturday.'

He could consider the option of competing in American Indy Car racing, although he again stressed his preference to stay in Formula One with Williams, albeit as partner to Alain Prost. He said: 'It's nice to know when you are appreciated and wanted elsewhere, but Indy cars is not something I am considering at the moment.

'I would like, as I have always said, to be given the opportunity to defend my title with the same team. You work all your life to achieve something, to get that No 1 on your car. Now I am champion I want that No 1. If this doesn't happen then we may look at other things. Anything is possible.'

Williams have been inundated with hate mail and calls from irate British fans, puzzled by the impasse. Some have even sent in pounds 10 notes in response to Williams's statement that he had no British backers and his tongue-in-cheek suggestion that if the public cared to send in pounds 10 donations things might be different.

It appears Williams proposed a massive pay cut, which left Mansell dismayed. Now, with sponsors' backing, it seems a new deal could be on the table.

Mansell has done his best to relax here, taking part in a charity golf competition and appearing as guest of honour at the local Ferrari club. There he was presented with a watch. He has also received a Lazio football shirt, signed by Gazza and the boys, congratulating him on his championship. Mansell plans to wear a football shirt tonight and play for a Formula One journalists side in their annual match against the photographers, a fixture which left him nursing an injured ankle last season.

He did, however, go on to win the race that weekend and somewhere between the contract negotiations and extra-curricular activities he must practise and qualify for this grand prix. Given reliabilty and the absence of freak conditions, he ought to be favourite to claim that ninth win.

One team happy for yesterday's rainstorms to linger until later in September is Ferrari, under the gaze of their disenchanted followers. Jean Alesi concedes: 'The only chance we have to do anything is if it is wet. Then maybe we can go well. Otherwise, forget it.'