JULY 1, 1996
Williams sitting pretty...
DESPITE the sudden withdrawals of Renault and Elf from Formula 1, the Williams team has suddenly found itself in a very strong position in Grand Prix racing with all the major manufacturers scrabbling to get a deal with Frank Williams and his 30% partner Patrick Head. Williams has been so dominant in recent years in F1 that it is the only logical choice a major engine manufacturer can consider if it wants to enter F1. For the companies already involved in F1 it provides a chance to grab the top team.
Williams can now sit back and listen to each of the manufacturers before deciding which is offering the best deal in terms of finance and competitiveness.
There have been plenty of rumors suggesting that Williams already has a deal with Honda, but this seems unlikely as Frank is believed to have felt that Renault would stay with him in 1998 and 1999. Once the French decision was made there was no reason to rush into a new deal.
The availability of Williams has also jolted BMW to reconsider its recent decision to stay out of F1. The Munich manufacturer is believed to have a V10 design ready to go if the management agrees to jump into F1, and the opportunity to join Williams and thus attack - and beat - Mercedes-Benz may be too tempting for the BMW management to pass up.
The management at Peugeot is also known to be considering a move from Jordan to Williams in 1998. This is entirely logical as the Jordan team is not yet delivering big results, despite the fact that the engine is very clearly a strong package - even if its reliability is a little suspect at the moment. Peugeot stands to gain most from Renault's withdrawal with many Renault Sport engineers expected to apply for jobs at Peugeot.
Renault Sport technical director Bernard Dudot says that he is hoping to keep his engineering team together but admits that time will tell if he is to be successful.
"The Renault management has promised us that we will be given the type of projects which will be sufficiently interesting to hold everyone's interest," he said at Magny-Cours. The problem is that most of Dudot's men are interested only in F1 and would be happy to move to Peugeot Sport.
One rumor which was flying around the paddock at Magny-Cours was that Mercedes-Benz might even be considering a deal with Williams because Frank's team has been consistently producing the best chassis, which is exactly what Mercedes needs to win. The engines now seem to be very good indeed. This, however, seems a rather bold step for the current management which seem to be content to hold on with McLaren in the hope that it will all come right in the end.
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