Motor Racing: Williams likely to hire Brundle

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The Independent Online
Martin Brundle re-emerged yesterday from another day of ludicrously conflicting communiques as favourite to partner Alain Prost at Williams-Renault next season. The line-up is expected to be confirmed next Wednesday.

Any hope of Ayrton Senna moving into the vacant seat following Nigel Mansell's decision to retire from Formula One appeared to disappear with the clear indication from the team that Prost did have a clause in his contract excluding the Brazilian.

Even as that piece of intelligence was filtering through, Prost was denying he had such a veto, although he admitted it would be 'war' if he was paired with his former McLaren team-mate. The Frenchman claimed he was blameless for Mansell's split with Williams, placing responsibility with Senna.

Prost insisted that Senna complicated the situation when he offered his services to Williams for nothing. Mansell says that as a consequence of Senna's move, he was made a considerably reduced offer to defend his world championship with the team.

Speaking in Paris, Prost said: 'Contrary to everything that has been said, nobody is excluded. But, with Senna it would be war from the first day because each of us would want to be No 1.

'It is up to Frank Williams to make me a proposition that I may or may not accept. Frank Williams's idea from the start was to form a Mansell-Prost team for '93. It was Senna who compromised everything. I was even prepared to have exactly the same conditions as Mansell - both in terms of equipment and cash. And if I go to Williams I'll be earning less than before.'

Prost is said to have in place a two-year contract worth dollars 15m ( pounds 8.1m) a year. He estimated his chances of driving for Williams at between 60 and 70 per cent, yet said: 'I'm looking forward to working with Patrick Head (Williams's technical director) and, of course, the challenge of winning with a French engine.' Realising the inconsistency his remarks, he quickly added: 'It depends on what Frank Williams offers me whether I accept.'

It is understood there were attempts to have Mansell's current team-mate, Riccardo Patrese, reinstated, but the Italian is said now to be committed to Benetton-Ford.

That seems to leave the way clear for Brundle, the driver released by Benetton, to move in at Didcot. Hiring a Briton may also serve to staunch the flow of public opinion against Williams. They have been inundated with critical mail and have had to contend with the dissatisfaction of some sponsors.

Jean-Marie Balestre, the French former president of Fisa, said yesterday he would not run for election against his successor, Max Mosley, next month.

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