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Tom and Flavio in trouble

DESPITE the arrival of money from Federal Express, the future of Flavio Briatore at Benetton continues to be unclear - with rumors that his recent fall-out with the Benetton family will not be patched-up. In recent weeks there have been rumors in the paddock suggesting that Cesare Fiorio might replace Flavio as Benetton team principal. The Benetton family is in the process of restructuring its holdings in the Benetton Sportsystem company - in which Briatore played an important role. The intention appears to be for the family-owned Edizione Holdings to pass Benetton Sportsystem on to the main company - the publicly-quoted Benetton SpA - so that it can expand its sportswear business.

It is also worth noting that Briatore seems to be paying more attention to the Minardi team. Briatore is the major shareholder in Minardi's holding company. There were suggestions in Magny-Cours that Briatore is trying to get Mugen Honda to supply the team with engines. Mugen is not planning a second supply until 1999 but might be forced into it a year early by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone as engines are short at the moment.

The man most likely to end up without a topline engine next year is Tom Walkinshaw. His hopes of a Mecachrome, Mugen or Ford engine have all seemingly been dashed and the Yamaha V10 engines are so uncompetitive that it is pointless to continue. In the circumstances Walkinshaw is unlikely to keep Damon Hill and has nothing to lose from doing his own F1 project. This is believed to be a long way from fruition at the moment but one option for Tom would be to buy out Brian Hart, who has a new V10 engine which needs to be financed.

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