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Mansell - the final chapter begins

Nigel Mansell will return to Formula 1 this weekend, driving a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/10B - built especially to accommodate him. The 41-year-old Englishman last week completed a total of 104 laps at Silverstone, driving an MP4/10, the car in which he said he would not drive for the first two Grands Prix of the season because it was too small for him.

This odd situation was made possible because McLaren had carried out modification work to the MP4/10 to squeeze Mansell in, but quite why this could not have been done earlier to avoid McLaren's public embarrassment at the start of the year remains a mystery, although it may be that the removal of side-panels in the car made the cockpit large enough for Mansell to test the car in private testing sessions, but not strong enough to pass official FIA crash tests.

Mansell's "wide-body" MP4/10B chassis is expected to undergo official crash-testing in England today (Monday) and the first chassis will then be despatched to Imola, Italy, where Mansell will drive it for the first time during the two track recognition sessions on Thursday. Hakkinen will remain in an MP4/10 for the next couple of races, but will get his own MP4/10B as soon as the team can build another chassis.

Mansell's arrival means that Mark Blundell once again finds himself out of work in Formula 1, although Ron Dennis has been smart enough to sign Blundell up as a test and reserve driver for the rest of the season, alongside Dane Jan Magnussen, who will concentrate on his German Touring Car Championship drive this year before testing for McLaren again at the end of the year.

Dennis, incidentally, refuses to say if he is going to make any changes of staff as a result of the cockpit cock-up, but we believe that the only man who Ron will even consider as a new technical director is Gary Anderson, who is currently employed at Jordan and who has already turned down a recent offer from Ferrari. None of the other available engineers match up to what Ron wants from a technical director and if there is a change, therefore, it is likely that we will see an outsider put in as a manager, rather than an F1 engineer promoted to a management position. Dennis has been known to do this before, notably when he hired McLaren's operations director Martin Whitmarsh from British Aerospace.

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