JULY 1, 1996
Frentzen and Williams - rumors
THE hot rumor in the paddock at Magny-Cours is that Frank Williams is on the verge of taking up a year-old option on Heinz-Harald Frentzen to join the Williams team in 1997. The option is believed to run out at the end of July.
This may be an exciting prospect - although Heinz-Harald has gone off the boil a little recently, frustrated with the Sauber-Ford - but it is hard to see why Williams would take this step now when he has two drivers doing as well as they are.
Damon Hill says he does not want to get into contractual negotiations until he gets closer to his aim of becoming World Champion. Williams, of course, would like to sign him up soon because Hill's price will go up if he wins the title. Hill is clever enough to understand, however, that it will be better to do a deal soon with Williams to continue - for a sensible amount of money - and win more races in 1997 with Williams and Renault before deciding whether to change teams when he knows what the combinations of teams and engines will be in 1998.
Jacques Villeneuve has shown well this year - although expectations were perhaps a little too high. The French-Canadian is unlikely to have a solid two-year contract with the team - to have signed such a deal would have been too great a risk for Williams - and so it is more likely that Jacques is on an option which Williams can renew of they wish to do so. Villeneuve has fitted in well with the team, although there have been one or two rumors of a difficult relationship between Jacques and technical director Patrick Head.
If Villeneuve could be replaced by Heinz-Harald Frentzen it would, of course, be an extremely valuable signing if Williams was doing a deal with a German engine manufacturers such as BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
In all probability, however, Williams will not be in a position to sign a driver until he has a 1998 engine deal - and so is likely to extend the option he has with Frentzen.
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