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Transfer fees for F1 drivers?

THE leading F1 team bosses met in the Williams motorhome at Magny-Cours last Saturday afternoon to discuss the issues of the moment and debate a proposal to introduce transfer fees for F1 drivers.

The system would mean that one team would have to pay another if one of its drivers moved. We understand that the amount paid would be based on the number of World Championship points scored in the season prior to the transfer. If, for example, there was a figure of $50,000 per point and Michael Schumacher had scored 75 points, anyone wanting to lure Schumacher away from Benetton would have to pay the team a transfer fee of $3,750,000 in addition to whatever salary the German demanded. This would mean that the driver market would become less volatile, which would drive down driver salaries.

The proposal comes at a time when the top teams are fighting over Michael Schumacher for 1996. The German is believed to be demanding $25 million for 1996, of which a sizable percentage would go to Schumacher's manager Willy Weber who is negotiating the deals. The teams have been unable to agree on a cartel to put a limit on driver salaries because they are unable to control their sponsors who would pay anything to get hold of Schumacher.

Current speculation suggests that Renault, Elf and Mild Seven are being asked to dig deep by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore to keep Schumacher at Benetton; at the same time Marlboro is pushing to get the German into Ferrari, while Williams is considering an offer with Rothmans backing. If Schumacher does go to Ferrari, neither Gerhard Berger nor Jean Alesi is expected to stay: with the Frenchman tipped to go to Benetton or Williams and the Austrian lined up with a drive at McLaren. The market, however, will remain blocked until Schumacher makes a decision which, he says, will not be until this year's championship is decided.

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