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...with Ford engines?

THE fact that Johnny Herbert has signed for Sauber indicates that it is quite likely that the Swiss team will be using Ford V10 engines again next season.

The Sauber Ford relationship has been rather tense in recent weeks, Sauber is known to be unhappy at the attempts by Jackie Stewart - Ford's new works team - to convince the Malaysian government to pump sponsorship into Stewart Grand Prix. To date this has been moderately successful with a small sponsorship deal - rumored to be $2.5m - from the Malaysian Tourist Board so that the car will bear the message "Visit Malaysia".

In addition Sauber and Ford have been unable to agree on two particular sticking points: the amount of money Ford wants for the V10 engines and the specification of the engines which will be supplied.

Ford is understood to be offering Sauber a deal which will cost Sauber over $8m for year-old engines. Sauber says this is too much. In addition the team is arguing that it should get similar specification engines to those of Stewart.

Ford has to tread a careful path because while not wishing to upset Stewart it needs to make sure that if the Scottish team is not very successful, there will be a back-up.

The deal seems to be a stop-gap measure and in 1998 Ford looks likely to concentrate on Stewart, while Sauber is expected to forge a new alliance. Our sources suggest that a deal being discussed is for Petronas to fund a complete V10 engine, which would be called the Petronas V10. The Malaysian company recently tried to organize such a deal with Yamaha but the Japanese company wanted its name to remain in F1.

The most likely scenario at the moment is for the Malaysians to fund Brian Hart - who has a couple of V10 projects on the cards. This makes a lot of sense as the Malaysians are planning a major engineering project in F1.

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