Motor Racing: Williams 'on verge of signing Mansell'

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The Independent Online
THE BANDWAGON inexorably, it seems, carrying Nigel Mansell back to Formula One gathered momentum yesterday with reports from France that the British driver had all but concluded a deal with Williams-Renault and that he could return full-time, starting at the British Grand Prix on 10 July.

It had appeared Mansell would be permitted to race only in grands prix which did not clash with his IndyCar commitments, but Williams, the British-based team, and their French engine partners, Renault, are said to be attempting to re-sign the former world champion on a permanent basis.

Mansell's current team, Newman-Haas, may find they can no longer resist the pressure from Williams, Renault, the Formula One impresario, Bernie Ecclestone, and the IndyCar title-holder himself.

The 40-year-old Mansell has carefully kept open the door to Formula One and events at his past two races have doubtless encouraged him to take a closer look inside. His hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500 ended with a rookie parked on top of him, and the dominance of Penske's 'dream team' at Milwaukee must have convinced him the rest of the series would be a nightmare.

David Coulthard, the 23-year-old Scot, again partners Damon Hill in the Williams team at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, when Mansell will be competing in Detroit. Mansell's final IndyCar race could be in Portland, on 26 June.

He has no IndyCar duties on 3 July, the day of the French Grand Prix, but if a full-time Williams drive is now possible, he may wish to prepare for an emotional reunion with his fans at Silverstone.

Should these renewed endeavours to buy out part of Mansell's contract with Newman-Haas fail, his restoration to Formula One at some stage still seems inevitable. It looks to be simply a matter of when.

All of which is galling for Hill, who won the Spanish Grand Prix and felt he had done enough to earn the No 1 job left vacant by the death of Ayrton Senna.

Karl Wendlinger, the Austrian Formula One driver who sustained serious head injuries and swelling of the brain in a crash during practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on 12 May, has been transferred to Innsbruck University Hospital. The driver's condition was said to be satisfactory and he was able to take food normally with the help of a nurse.