Motor Racing: Williams hankering after Hakkinen

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The Independent Online
MIKA HAKKINEN, the 24-year-old Finnish driver, may be edging ahead in the marathon race for the vacant seat at Williams-Renault next season.

The team's puzzling rejection of Martin Brundle last week raised the hopes of another Briton, their test driver, Damon Hill. But it could be that Frank Williams, the team's managing director, has designs elsewhere, secure in the knowledge that Hill is on standby.

The American, Al Unser Jnr, Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi, Ayrton Senna (still) and Nigel Mansell (even), have all been mentioned in the myriad rumours surrounding Williams' protracted endeavours to find a partner for Alain Prost. The door certainly seems to have been left open, just in case.

However, it is understood Williams are investigating the legal ramifications of an approach to Hakkinen, who, like Herbert, is contracted to stay with Lotus-Ford next season. Lotus's managing director, Peter Collins, has stated his drivers are not available, yet if Hakkinen is adamant he wants what is, after all, a prime drive, suitable compensation might settle the issue.

Hakkinen has had an excellent season, generally outshining his much vaunted colleague. He is managed by Keke Rosberg, who won the Formula One world championship in 1982 - driving for Williams

Brundle, meanwhile, may join his fellow Briton, Derek Warwick, in the reckoning at Footwork-Mugen Honda, although he is unwilling to commit himself to another team while seats at McLaren and Williams are still available.