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McLaren bidding for Schumacher in 1998?

ONE rumor which was doing the rounds in the paddock in Melbourne was that McLaren boss Ron Dennis is intending to bid to sign up Michael Schumacher for the 1998 season. In theory Schumacher is under contract to Ferrari until the end of 1999 in a deal which is rumored to be worth more than $25m a year. Such a deal will, inevitably, involve performance-related options which might allow Schumacher to switch teams.

Before Michael signed for Ferrari, McLaren tried to convince Michael to become part of a German "superteam" involving Mercedes-Benz and West cigarettes. That team currently exists but without a German driver and there seem to be plans to try to lure Schumacher to the team with West money, Mercedes engines, the promise of designer Adrian Newey and probably an exclusive tire deal.

Schumacher went to Ferrari in 1996 expecting to spend a year building the team up to win in 1997 but it does not look likely that the package will be a serious threat this season. Such a move would be illogical given that Ferrari has just hired Schumacher's old Benetton engineers Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn and their work at Maranello will not really be seen until the 1998 season.

It may be, however, that Schumacher can be convinced that Ferrari will never be successful and that it would be better for him to cut and run. It will be worth watching for developments...

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