SEPTEMBER 29, 1997
Villeneuve and Frentzen stay at Williams
FRANK WILLIAMS was due to announce as we were closing for press that he is retaining Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen for the 1998 season. Villeneuve has already told the F1 media that he is staying at Williams - despite wild rumors from Canada that Alain Prost is bidding for his services.
Williams is already concentrating on his plans for 1999 and beyond. We believe that it is very unlikely that Villeneuve will stay beyond the end of next season, and that he will be moving to the planned British American Tobacco-funded Reynard F1 team - in which he is expected to be a shareholder.
We believe that Williams is aiming to run Jarno Trulli in 1999 and it is logical to assume that the team will retain Frentzen to ensure some driver stability for another season and to keep new engine supplier BMW happy. Williams has been following Trulli's career since the end of 1995 and is a big fan. It remains to be seen what Trulli will do next year. It would be logical for him to stay with Prost but Alain may want a longer-term deal, which could mean that Jarno will have to sit out the 1998 season as the Williams test driver - as Mika Hakkinen did with McLaren in 1993.
Prost continues to examine other possibilities although a deal with CART Champion Alex Zanardi does not look like happening as Chip Ganassi wants to keep hold of the talented Italian. Prost has also been talking to Gianni Morbidelli and Jos Verstappen but neither of them are very likely as it is much more logical for Prost to keep Trulli for one more year, which will give him time to bring on new French talent Soheil Ayari for 1999.
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