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McLaren chases Frentzen

MCLAREN wants German rising star Heinz-Harald Frentzen - with immediate effect - according to paddock rumors in Montreal but it seems that "HH" cannot get out of his Sauber-Ford contract this year.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis is looking for someone to replace Nigel Mansell and while Mark Blundell is doing a competent job he does not have the kind of profile which Dennis needs to keep his sponsor Marlboro happy.

As we understand it, Frentzen's Sauber contract includes a buyout clause but in order for him to get out of the contract Heinz-Harald needs the agreement of both Sauber and Ford. He cannot simply walk out on the team because the FIA controls contract-breaking with its Contract Recognition Board, with which copies of all the F1 contracts and options are lodged in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dennis's hopes of attracting Michael Schumacher for 1996 are fading as the McLaren-Mercedes package is not competitive and although Dennis is believed to have a short-term option on Williams driver David Coulthard (which was agreed after the Contract Recognition Board refused to allow Coulthard to leave Williams at the end of last year) the Scotsman may want to stay at Williams for another year.

Dennis's search for a top engineer continues. He tried to grab Adrian Newey from Williams recently and is also tipped to be talking to Alan Jenkins of Arrows. The major target, however, may now be none other than Dennis's former partner in McLaren John Barnard. Barnard is not thought to be particularly happy with Ferrari because rumors suggest that Ferrari boss Jean Todt no longer wants to have a British design office and wants to close down Ferrari Design & Development.

The rumors that Frentzen might be leaving Sauber sparked stories that the Swiss team would take on Simtek's Jos Verstappen. The Dutchman, however, is thought to be far more likely to turn up with Arrows where Morbidelli is running out of money.

Verstappen is not much better off but he is believed to have had an assurance from Benetton boss Flavio Briatore - who still officially employs him - that Jos would take part in a full 16 race program this year. Briatore found and arranged Verstappen's Simtek drive but since the little team looks like it is going out of business, the Benetton boss may need to place Jos elsewhere to fulfill his commitment.

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