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Williams sticks with 1999 engine plans

THE recent deal involving Mecachrome, Renault Sport and the mysterious Supertec Sport company have led to speculation that Williams Grand Prix Engineering might not be running Mecachrome V10 engines in 1999. The speculation arose because Williams insisted that it had a deal with Renault Sport rather than with Mecachrome or Supertec Sport and that it was not going to pay the extra money being demanded by Supertec for the supply of engines next year. We understand that the price of the engines has been hiked by between 25-30% since Supertec got hold of the rights to distribute the engines.

According to our sources Williams will retain its current deal and that means that it is not very likely that Jacques Villeneuve will be keen to stay on with the team as it is unlikely to want to pay him what he thinks he is worth. In previous years Williams has always followed the policy of investing in technology rather than giving vast sums to drivers and has manufactured its own stars by providing the best machinery. We would expect, therefore, that Williams will sign up at least one driver - almost certainly Columbian Juan-Pablo Montoya. Heinz-Harald Frentzen may be retained for the sake of continuity.

There have been rumors in recent days that BMW might try to accelerate its F1 plans to help Williams out but these seem to be completely groundless. The Munich-based car company is progressing with the program but a great deal of development is needed before the company's V10 is ready to race. BMW's director of marketing Karl-Heinz Kalbfell - who is also managing-director of BMW Motorsport Ltd. - was due to unveil plans about the F1 program at a press conference in Munich on Monday. We expect that this announcement will include the identity of the man who will be responsible for the F1 engine program. One possibility is former BMW Motorsport boss Jochen Neerpasch, who is currently working as a consultant to the ORECA-run BMW Junior Team in Formula 3000.

We would expect to see BMW F3000 drivers Alex Muller and Dominik Swager included in the Williams-BMW testing plans next year and we would be amazed if the Belgian oil company - which has backed BMW motorsport programs for many years - was not involved.

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