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Villeneuve re-signs for Williams

JACQUES VILLENEUVE has re-signed with the Williams team for the 1998 season. The French-Canadian is coming to the end of his two-year deal with the team, which is believed to have had an option for 1998, subject to the two parties agreeing financial terms. It seems that Jacques is going to get a big increase in salary as he has now proved that he is a highly-competitive F1 driver.

When Villeneuve signed for Williams in August 1995 it was a risk for Williams as Jacques and his management were asking for a salary of around $5m a year, which was what he could have expected to earn in America as the 1994 Indycar Champion. He tested successfully for Williams but the team signed him on a solid two-year deal in the hope that the speed would be translated into results in races. The pay-off for that risk is this year as Jacques is currently being paid less than he is worth in F1 terms. The deal for 1998 is understood to be in the region of $10m.

The deal means that rumors that Villeneuve would leave Williams to be part of a new Grand Prix team being put together by his manager Craig Pollock and business advisor Julian Jakobi are unfounded.

Villeneuve's partner for 1998 will be Heinz-Harald Frentzen who signed a two-year deal for 1997 and 1998. He is rumored to have an option to continue with Williams in 1999.

The pair will race the Williams-Mecachrome FW20 although it remains to be confirmed which company will be the team's title sponsor. There have been rumors suggesting that Rothmans is going to pull out of F1 and that the team has been negotiating with British American Tobacco but our sources say that, for the moment at least, Rothmans looks like staying on to be part of the deal.

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