Further fuel was added to a confusing mixture with speculation that Ayrton Senna, could, after all partner Alain Prost at Williams-Renault next year. It is thought that Senna may have had talks with Frank Williams. Senna had publicly withdrawn from contention, claiming Prost had a clause in his contract excluding the Brazilian. Last weekend, however, Prost said he had no such power and was prepared to work alongside any driver. Williams, however, have never confirmed that Prost has a contract with them.
Labatt's, in common with other team sponsors, Renault, Canon and Camel, are dismayed by the decision of Mansell, the world champion, to retire from Formula One following the breakdown of talks with Williams.
John Eckmire, the managing director of Labatt Brewery UK, said: 'We are concerned that Nigel Mansell and Williams have not been able to reach agreement for 1993. Our sponsorship position has always assumed that Nigel Mansell would be driving for Williams next year and thus we echo the British public's sentiments.
'We greatly value our relationship with Nigel and sincerely hope that it may continue in the future. It is our wish that Williams and Mansell should reopen discussions and that the prospect of Nigel's premature retirement will vanish.'
Whether talks can be resumed at this stage appears doubtful. Mansell stressed yesterday that he had no intention of making a second U-turn to stay in Formula One and he is close to replying to the offer of a drive with the American Indy Car team, Newman-Haas.
In a statement released last night, Frank Williams declared that his team were unable to meet the driver's demands. Williams said: 'Our strategy for 1993 included ensuring that we had Nigel in the team, a strategy we pursued right up until Nigel's announcement on Sunday. Without going into details of the long and protracted meetings, we have made several offers to Nigel, all of which were rejected.
'Some criteria for the decision-making process have changed throughout the year, but we repeat Nigel was the focus of our efforts for the 1993 season.'
Mansell claimed Williams proposed a massive reduction in his retainer when he thought they had a deal. 'To say I have been badly treated is a gross understatement,' he said before Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
Williams carefully considered his public response, cancelling plans to hold his own press conference at the team's factory, in Didcot, Oxfordshire, yesterday and then changing his mind about delaying his statement until tomorrow. Instead his reply was issued through his promotional agency last night.
He said: 'In parallel with the driver discussions, we obviously have to ensure the team's future which, in a world recession, is difficult even with our world championship-winning status.
'Despite the enormous support for both the team and Nigel from many British fans, we are still unable to raise any significant sponsorship from the UK. Our first responsibility is to Williams Grand Prix Engineering and its 200 employees and, therefore, regrettably we could not meet Nigel's demands in the time scale required. We are obviously aware of the disappointment Nigel's retirement generated in the UK, but Williams Grand Prix Engineering is an international company that operates on a global basis and must continue to do so.
'We would like to thank Nigel for all his efforts and wish him and his family well in America. Nigel returned to the Williams team for the sole purpose of winning the world championship and he has now achieved his goal. We know that in the early months of his second period with us he said he would retire if he won the championship. This could have obviously been a stronger consideration than we originally thought and whatever the final reasons for Nigel's retirement we are glad he has won the championship he richly deserved.'
Mansell had talked about 'instant retirement' if he won the championship. But last winter he told me he would want to defend the title and that has consistently been his expressed desire since.
Prior to renewed speculation about Senna, Williams had been thought to favour signing another British driver to replace Mansell. Martin Brundle, who will leave Benetton-Ford at the end of this season, was the likely candidate.