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Who goes to McLaren

OUSTED Williams driver David Coulthard - who was drafted into the race team after Ayrton Senna's death - wanted to leave the team at the end of last season but was forced by the FIA Contract Recognition Board to stay with Williams this season. There were, however, rumors that an option for 1996 was agreed between the young Scotsman and McLaren's Ron Dennis immediately after they lost the Contract Recognition Board battle in December.

Now it seems Coulthard is set to join Mika Hakkinen - as originally planned. David is rumored to be interested in a long-term deal to provide some stability for his career as he learns more about F1. This year has been a disappointment, but only because expectations have been very high. In fact, he has done a pretty solid job and is strengthening his position with every race - even if he is not beating Damon Hill.

Coulthard is believed to be Dennis's choice because he fits the McLaren image: he has a history with the team and he is young and may develop into a really top talent. He is also a driver who produces good technical feedback which is something that Mika Hakkinen is not always able to provide. The Finn is very quick but has never been much of a development driver.

McLaren's only other real option appears to be a deal with Gerhard Berger, should the Austrian decide not to continue at Ferrari. Schumacher wanted Ferrari test driver Nicola Larini as his partner in 1996, but the Ferrari technical staff would prefer to keep Berger for the sake of continuity. Ferrari gave Berger a contract in May but he has yet to sign it and now has a deadline at the end of this month. If he decides to go, Larini will get the second Ferrari and Berger could move to McLaren.

Dennis and Berger worked together for three years but Gerhard is now reaching the end of his career and, while he would be a useful man for the McLaren-Mercedes team to have, he is also not going to be around in F1 for many more years.

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