AUGUST 31, 1998
The Ralf and Eddie show
DAMON HILL and Ralf Schumacher took advantage of a mistake by Michael Schumacher in the Belgian GP to score Jordan╩Grand╩Prix's first Formula 1 victory in fine style, the pair finishing first and second at Spa. The result puts the team into a fighting fifth in the Constructors' Championship, within reach of both Williams and Benetton.
But while there was much rejoicing going on at Jordan - which has been in F1 since 1991 without a victory - the team is in dispute with Ralf as to whether he will drive for Jordan next year. Schumacher Junior has embarked on legal action to try to precipitate a decision as to whether or not he is at liberty to join Williams Grand Prix Engineering. The writ seeks to prevent Eddie Jordan telling rival teams that Schumacher is not available.
The team failed to take up Schumacher's 1999 option earlier in the summer as he had not produced any good results in the first part of the year and Jordan was not interested in paying what would have been necessary if he had taken up the option. The team claims that it has faxes from Schumacher's manager Willi Weber which agree to a new deal but Weber denies that these constitute a binding agreement and that Ralf is at liberty to sign for Williams.
Whatever the legal implications in the future it is now fairly clear that Ralf does not want to stay at Jordan and it is therefore illogical for Eddie to fight to keep him as he will not be very motivated if forced to stay at Jordan. A settlement which will allow Ralf to join Williams is therefore much more likely. Schumacher wants to join the Grove team and has been advised to do so.
Frank Williams is waiting to hear if Ralf can sign for Williams - although he may, believing himself to be free from Jordan, already have done so. Williams is keeping the door open for test driver Juan-Pablo Montoya just in case Ralf is forced to stay at Jordan, but in all probability will release Montoya when the deal with Ralf is sorted out so that the Colombian can go to Jordan to replace the German. We understand that Jordan's former test driver Ricardo Zonta is also in the picture although his candidature may be complicated by the fact that he is halfway through a two-year deal with Mercedes-Benz. There are not believed to be any other drivers in the picture at the moment with Jordan Grand Prix.
While sections of the German press still seem to think that Heinz-Harald Frentzen has the chance to stay at Williams next year, this does not seem to be very likely and he is still expected to go to Team Rahal in CART in the United States. There were some rumors last week that Rahal has signed a deal with Italian Max Papis - who has been driving for the Arciero team this year - but we believe that Papis is much more likely to be moved to Target Chip Ganassi Racing to replace Alex Zanardi.
Williams is hoping to announce his drivers at Monza in two weeks but may have to wait until later in the autumn if the legal wrangling between Jordan and Schumacher cannot be sorted out quickly.
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