Motor Racing: Senna's future still in a spin

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The Independent Online
AYRTON SENNA came into the cold at last yesterday, ending his Brazilian summer sojourn with a much-anticipated first test drive in the McLaren-Ford, but if his immediate destiny was any clearer he was not telling.

After an eventful session at Silverstone, during which he spun into a gravel trap yet set impressively competitive times, he said he might not be in a position to decide whether to take part in this year's Formula One world championship until after the opening race, the South African Grand Prix, at Kyalami, on Sunday week. Senna had a best time of 1min 21.9sec, just two-tenths of a second behind the young Finn, Mika Hakkinen, who awaits his verdict with more interest than most.

If Senna elects to stay, Hakkinen, who, of course, has not had the winter off, would be relegated to the role of test driver. Michael Andretti, the one McLaren driver certain to compete, rose to the challenge and produced his quickest lap to date, 1:22.3. By way of a benchmark, all compared their times with Damon Hill, in the Williams-Renault: 1:21.0.

Senna says he has a number of commercial and technical considerations to wrestle with. Do they include salary, he was asked. 'Everything is important,' he replied.

He said: 'It was difficult for me because it was freezing cold and I have just had four months in hot weather. We had lots of minor problems but then it is a new car, with new engine and electronics.

'I don't like computers except when they are nice to you. But this is the way it has to be to be competitive. It is difficult for me to give an honest answer and not compromise the situation. I have come to Europe to be in a better position to make the decision. I know it is late in terms of the championship, but it is too early to make the decision.

'I was surprised by aspects of the car but I cannot expand. There is a lot to learn. I have never had so many spins in one day.'

Senna will have the opportunity to learn more about the car today but it seems the uncertainty about his future will linger.

He was adamant, however, that he was not stalling in the hope that Alain Prost might be suspended and vacate a Williams. Prost, who spent yesterday shaking down his car, said: 'I'm happy to see Senna back. Then, with a mischievous grin, he added: 'At McLaren.'

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