Motor Racing: Schumacher stays put: Benetton deny rift with championship leader

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MICHAEL SCHUMACHER and Benetton tried to kill off the speculation about their relationship yesterday by announcing that the favourite for this year's Formula One title would be driving for the team for the rest of the season.

There was no mention of next year's campaign, however, so the rumours that the German could be moving, perhaps to McLaren, who are said to be offering dollars 20m (pounds 13m) for his services, are unlikely to die away. Schumacher is under contract until the end of 1996.

'To put an end to all recent rumours and speculation,' a statement said, 'Benetton Formula confirms that Michael Schumacher will return at the 1994 European Grand Prix (in Jerez, Spain, on 16 October) following his suspension.'

Earlier, conversely, the German newspaper Bild quoted Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, as saying Benetton had been told in writing that Schumacher would be leaving unless new conditions were created for him. This is understood to mean vastly improved pay and a new one-year contract giving him much greater flexibility. 'We will not continue driving under the current conditions,' Weber was quoted as telling Bild.

Schumacher, who still leads the Formula One standings despite missing last weekend's Italian Grand Prix, is said to be particularly dismayed at the possibility that Benetton acted in a way which may have infringed regulations without his knowledge.