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Nasser in Argentina

JACQUES NASSER, the man who is ultimately responsible for Ford's Formula 1 program as President of Ford Automotive Operations, was a visitor to the Argentine Grand Prix and tried to dampen down rumors that Ford is planning to form a new partnership with Benetton to get results which Stewart Grand Prix is currently not delivering.

We understand that Jackie Stewart has been pushing Ford to make a public statement of support for the team because the stories of Ford doing a deal with Benetton have disrupted some of Jackie's negotiations for sponsorship contracts.

"The team has had a difficult time because we have been developing the car and the engine during races," said Nasser. "We are in F1 to win in the long term, which is underlined by our commitment to the Stewart team which runs until the end of 2000."

It remains to be seen whether Stewart remains the only team running the latest V10 engine in 1999. Rumors in the paddock continue to suggest that a deal between Ford and Benetton has already been struck and that the Enstone team will officially be given "customer" status on payment of a token sum of money while in effect it will be equivalent to a second works team.

Ford adopted a similar strategy in 1993 when Benetton was not performing. McLaren was supplied with engines - on a customer basis - and won five races to Benetton's singleton victory. The policy was very successful as Benetton was forced to up its game to see off the threat from McLaren.

It is worth noting, incidentally, that two of the top engine men at Cosworth Engineering - John Hilton and Stuart Lever - have left the operation in recent months and have both recently begun working with the TWR F1 engine program, under former Cosworth designer Geoff Goddard.

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