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Does Frentzen still have a chance at Williams?

THE announcement that Team Rahal has signed a deal with Max Papis for the 1999 CART season means that one of Heinz-Harald Frentzen's options for next year has disappeared. Frentzen had an option to join Rahal but this appears to have expired at the end of August without Heinz-Harald making up his mind. As a result Rahal moved quickly to hire Papis, who had been under contract to Arciero Wells.

Frentzen's failure to sign the deal suggests that the German driver has other possibilities - either in F1 or with a rival CART team. This is not surprising as there are still CART drives open with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Patrick Racing.

There is currently no obvious job for Heinz-Harald in Grand Prix racing. Williams is not very keen to keep him; Jordan has shown no obvious interest and Peter Sauber says he does not want him back.

The driver market in both CART and F1 is expected to start moving again after the Italian GP at which Williams and Jordan are expected to make driver announcements.

Jordan issued at statement late last Tuesday denying suggestions by Ralf Schumacher's manager Willi Weber that the team has withdrawn from talks with Schumacher about 1999. The German has issued a writ against the team in the hope that the hearing will establish whether or not he is free to sign for Williams. Jordan says it will vigorously defend itself against the writ when the case comes before the High Court in London. A hearing is expected this week.

If Schumacher loses he may be forced to stay at Jordan in 1999 which will mean that Williams may choose to sign up Juan-Pablo Montoya on a long-term deal or do a deal with Schumacher for the year 2000 and hold on to Frentzen for one more season.

If Schumacher does move to Williams he is likely to be replaced at Jordan by either Montoya or Ricardo Zonta, the McLaren test driver. In the last few days we have heard of attempts by McLaren to place both Zonta and Heidfeld with other teams in an effort to ensure that its young driver scheme does not stagnate, which would make it less attractive to youngsters who are worried that it will be a ticket to nowhere. McLaren and Mercedes currently have seven young drivers under contract with several others being given occasional test drives as part of the McLaren Autosport Young Driver Scheme.