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FEBRUARY 2, 1998

One seat left in F1 musical chairs

THE signing of Shinji Nakano by Minardi means that there is now only one remaining Formula 1 drive for the 1998 season, and competition for the second Tyrrell seat is surprisingly intense given the likely level of competitiveness of the Ockham team, which closes down at the end of the year.

Argentina's Norberto Fontana remains a possible candidate along with Brazilians Tarso Marques and Ricardo Rosset. All three have around $5m of sponsorship available with which to buy the drive. Jos Verstappen, who drove for the team last season, does not have the same kind of money but could provide the team with experience and continuity as the team's only confirmed driver Toranosuke Takagi will not be able to fulfil the role of team leader in his first season of Grand Prix racing.

The other man who might be called in to lead the team is Frenchman Christophe Boullion, who is understood to be favoured by the management of British American Racing, which has ultimate control of the Tyrrell decision-making processes.

And while Tyrrell is unlikely to be foremost in his mind, former World Champion Nigel Mansell last week threw his hat into the F1 ring once again, explaining that he has not been racing for the last two seasons because of contractual obligations.

"I have always enjoyed racing," he said, "and it really was not my doing not to race these last couple of years. I had contracts which paid me for not racing, but I am a free agent this year."

At 43 years of age, however, Mansell is unlikely to be taken up by any of the teams - although Tyrrell might think twice if he offered his services - and $5m...