Motoracing: Hill stalls as Verstappen moves in

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The Independent Online
JOS VERSTAPPEN went to work for Jordan-Mugen yesterday with uncertainty still shrouding the future of the team's regular driver, Damon Hill.

The former champion had been expected to confirm his retirement with immediate effect and Jordan summoned the Dutchman, Verstappen, as his potential replacement in the British Grand Prix, at Silverstone, on Sunday week.

However, Jordan were still awaiting Hill's verdict last night, prompting speculation that he might yet be swayed by the entreaties of his supporters to make a final appearance in his home race. A Jordan team spokeswoman said: "We've not had a decision from Damon. This is obviously something he wants to think about very carefully."

Some sources within the sport suspect Hill is calculating the cost of walking out on Formula One at this stage of the season. It is understood he is due to earn another pounds 2.5m for the remainder of the world championship programme. He is doubtless reluctant to forfeit so much and Jordan will be equally less enthusiastic about paying him his full retainer. Hill and the team owner, Eddie Jordan, have spoken by telephone over the past two days and it may well be they have been discussing a severance fee.

Verstappen would probably be content to accept a modest remuneration. He has been called up from the fringes of Formula One and presented an opportunity to play on the main stage again. The 27-year-old former Benetton, Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell and Stewart driver has been given the two-day stint at Silverstone alongside Jordan's regular test driver, Shinji Nakano and started well yesterday. His best lap was a second faster than Nakano's but more than three seconds behind that of Ferrari's Michael Schumacher. If he continues to perform well, Verstappen will be in line to partner Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the race team.

Frentzen's performances have certainly raised the standards now expected at Jordan. He has put them on course for third place in the constructors' championship, reaching a personal peak with victory in last Sunday's French Grand Prix. Jordan have inevitably been linked with one of their former drivers, Eddie Irvine, for next season, though he would cost around pounds 4m after his impressive performances with Ferrari, while David Coulthard, having a less productive yet undeniably luckless season with McLaren-Mercedes, may be available for around pounds 2.5m despite his assertions to the contrary. The French Sicilian, Jean Alesi, is another who could come into the picture.

Meanwhile Verstappen said afterwards: "It was always a dream for me to come to Jordan. Of course I want to be back in Formula One."