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Panis for McLaren?

OLIVIER PANIS says he is not going to sign for the Arrows team but says he has a chance of an interesting job in FormulaŹ1 next year. There has been considerable speculation that Olivier is in the process of doing a deal to become McLaren's third driver while also racing for Mercedes in the German Touring Car series. Panis was reportedly in Stuttgart recently for discussions and is also known to have been to England for talks about F1.

A move to McLaren makes a great deal of sense for the 33-year-old Frenchman. He has an enormous amount of F1 experience which would be very useful for McLaren, as the team's test driver Nick Heidfeld has signed for Prost Grand Prix for next year and the team is yet to be convinced that Brazilian youngster Mario Haberfeld is fast enough to take over the job. Haberfeld had a very difficult year with the McLaren-owned West Competition Formula 3000 team and it is yet to be confirmed that he will be retained in 2000.

Panis would be well-placed to replace David Coulthard at McLaren in 2001 if the Scotsman decided to move elsewhere at the end of next year. It should be remembered that since the summer Olivier has been managed by Keke Rosberg who did a similar deal with McLaren for Mika Hakkinen back in 1993. Mika ran alongside Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti but was drafted into the race team when Andretti departed in the autumn.

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