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Who gets the second Benetton

HAVING signed a deal with Jean Alesi to be its number one driver next year, Benetton is now chasing a second driver for 1996 and the F1 rumor mill has been working overtime.

Existing incumbent Johnny Herbert is unlikely to continue - there continue to be rumors which suggest he will not be finishing the season with the team. Johnny is tipped to find a place at Jordan, alongside Eddie Irvine. The team is expected to sign a sponsorship deal with MTV - which should help Eddie Jordan and his boys to find a dramatic budget increase needed for next year. The MTV deal involves the provision of television time around the world rather than money, but this can be used to draw in new sponsors. MTV, however, wants to be associated with a lively team of drivers - which means that Irvine and Herbert are top of the list.

Current Jordan driver Rubens Barrichello is one of the main names being linked with Benetton. He twice visited the Benetton factory at Enstone last week for talks with Flavio Briatore. Briatore, however, is not short of candidates for the drive. In addition to Barrichello, Briatore is showing interest in Jos Verstappen, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis. Verstappen is under a Benetton option for 1996 but this runs out at the end of September. If it is not taken up by the team the Dutchman will become a free agent. Verstappen can potentially bring a sensible budget to Benetton from Philips Car Stereos.

Barrichello has backing available from Brazil and is therefore quite an attractive choice for Briatore, while Frentzen is under a Sauber option which must be taken up by the end of September. He can escape this if a rival team is willing to pay Sauber $2 million in compensation. Frentzen, however, would help Briatore keep hold of Benetton's German sponsors - such as Bitburger - which cannot follow Schumacher to Ferrari.

Panis is attractive in that he will help to cement the links with Elf and Renault. The concept of two Frenchmen at Benetton is, however, very unlikely.

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