AUGUST 11, 1997
Damon Hill's future
DAMON HILL's remarkable performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix is likely to boost his chances of landing a top F1 drive next year. Hill is hoping that a drive may become available with McLaren but has not ruled out the possibility of staying on with Arrows for another season - particularly given the performance of the Arrows-Yamaha-Bridgestone package in Budapest.
One thing is certain, Hill will not be going to Sauber. He spent eight hours at the team's Hinwil factory in the break between the German and Hungarian Grands Prix. The visit was the combination of negotiations which had been going on with the Swiss team since the Spanish GP in May. The Swiss were willing to pay Damon a rumored $5m but insisted on a quick response to the offer. When Damon said he was unable to give them an answer the offer was withdrawn as Peter Sauber felt that the delay did not suggest that Hill was very enthusiastic about a Sauber deal.
Some in F1 paddock believe that Hill was unable to accept the Sauber deal because he has some form of option with McLaren, meaning he is unable to make a move until the end of September. Damon is unlikely to have accepted such an option unless McLaren was willing to pay but this is not unlikely as Ron Dennis has often spent money in the past to ensure that he is able to control the driver market and disrupt other teams.
The word in the paddock in Budapest is that McLaren is most likely to keep its current driver line-up although both Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard are believed to be on Jordan's shopping list. Hakkinen is under option to McLaren and there were suggestions in Hungary that Coulthard also has some kind of arrangement in place.
David refuses to discuss his future because he says he would be in breach of his existing contract and could be kicked out of the team if he reveals anything about negotiations.
Hill's other option would appear to be Prost but Alain is believed to be planning to run Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli, while Jordan is not really showing any interest in Hill.
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