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Shell to supply Ferrari

BOOTED out of Grand Prix at the end of last year when McLaren did a deal with Mobil, the Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell has been looking at ways to come back into F1. The problem was that all the top F1 teams have deals with fuel companies: Williams, Benetton and Ligier are tied to Elf; Ferrari, Minardi and Tyrrell to Agip; McLaren to Mobil; Jordan to Total; Sauber to Petronas and Arrows to Sasol.

Europe's biggest oil company, and the fourth largest company in the world behind General Motors, Ford and Exxon, Shell was not interested in making up the numbers and so planning centered on signing up with one of the four top teams. With McLaren under contract to Mobil, and the two Renault-engined teams forced to use Elf because of the shareholding and commercial links between Renault and Elf, the only option available was to see if Ferrari could be lured away from Agip.

Agip Petroli is owned by the massive Italian petro-chemical company Eni, which is controlled by the Italian government. Agip is believed to have been paying around $10m each year to Ferrari and was negotiating for a contract for 1996 and beyond. We understand that Shell has offered considerably more - rumor has it that it might be as high as $25m - to get the deal.

The money from the deal would be used to help fund the hiring of Michael Schumacher; but there are other advantages for Ferrari, as Shell's knowledge of fuels for V10 engines is enormous, having worked with such success with McLaren and Honda. A Shell deal would also reunite the oil company with engine designer Osamu Goto, who now works at Ferrari.

Agip's F1 boss Armando Bianchi was at Hockenheim and said that he was negotiating with Ferrari about the future, but that Ferrari was looking for a lot more money to enable the team to fund an important driver change. It appears that Agip might have known about the Shell bid at Silverstone, where the company issued a press statement complaining about the restrictive fuel regulations in F1, thus giving them a way to quit the sport without being seen to have been bounced out by a rival.

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