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Does Herbert have an F1 future?

THE withdrawal of Nokia from Formula 1 is bad news for British F1 driver Johnny Herbert - winner of two races this year. Johnny has been dropped by Benetton and has still to find an F1 drive for next year. In recent months he has had talks with Sauber, Ligier and Tyrrell, but with Ligier apparently deciding to hire Pedro Diniz and a Frenchman, and Tyrrell short of money, Johnny's only real option would appear to be Sauber, and Johnny is wary of joining the team for fear that he may find himself in the shadow of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, as he was with Michael Schumacher at Benetton.

Johnny has also been having talks with Indycar teams - notably PacWest - in case no F1 deal materializes.

A week ago our Swiss sources were saying that Mark Blundell was virtually certain to be Sauber's second driver, but that has changed, probably because of the Nokia announcement - and at the weekend we were told that it was 50-50 between Herbert and Blundell.

There is, however, one other possible scenario which - although speculative - ought to be mentioned. McLaren may insist that Mika Hakkinen will be ready to race in 1996, but as the doctors involved say that there cannot be a decision for at least another month, it may be in Ron Dennis's interest to keep his options open. Dennis knows that Herbert was as quick as Hakkinen when the pair were team mates at Lotus. He even tried to sign Herbert at the end of 1994 - when Lotus was on its last legs - but Johnny was snatched by Tom Walkinshaw and ended up at Benetton.

Johnny has a lot which would be good for McLaren. He is mentally tough and experienced in F1. He has learned a lot from working with Michael Schumacher, although he has not been able to show much progress because the Benetton was designed for Schumacher's unusual style. He is also a race winner - which McLaren's partner Marlboro would appreciate.

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