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Newey to McLaren?

RUMORS continue to circulate in Formula 1 about the future of Williams designer Adrian Newey and the latest stories suggest that Newey will join McLaren within the next month. There are still a few suggestions that he might join Ferrari but this is unlikely.

A move to McLaren is likely to be challenged in court by Williams because Frank Williams insists that Newey is under contract until 1999. This will achieve little except to delay any move because if it comes to legal action the relationship between Williams and Newey will have broken down.

The most interesting thing about the move - if it happens - is that it will mark the first time since John Barnard left McLaren in 1986 that Dennis has hired a frontline designer. Dennis has always argued that McLaren should be a team with strength in depth which does not rely on one star designer. Critics argue that this is what has caused McLaren's problems in recent years. In order to get Newey, however, Dennis will have to agree to give Newey the power to hire and fire to put together the team he wants, which means that he will have to "re-invent" his management ideas. Such is the pressure for success, however, that Dennis seems to have little other choice.

Hiring Newey will not, however, solve all of McLaren's problems as he will need to put together his design team, and the team needs time to improve its facilities. The public inquiry into McLaren's plans to build a factory in a protected "green belt" near Woking opens shortly and is expected to drag on into the autumn, meaning that any new factory could not be built before 1998.

Rumors in the paddock at Silverstone suggested that Marlboro will continue with McLaren next year but on a much smaller scale than has been the case. Ferrari is expected to get a lot more of the Marlboro budget and there have even been suggestions that the team will be called Marlboro Ferrari - with larger Marlboro signage than at the moment. There were even stories suggesting that Dennis had talks with Benson & Hedges recently.

Hiring Newey would be a good way to head off any moves by Mercedes to try to get a deal with Williams. In theory Adrian could design a car for 1997 in the time available but with Williams fighting a delaying action in the courts it could backfire...

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