Shake-up at Benetton

THE recent return of Flavio Briatore has led to suggestions that there will be changes to the Benetton team in the next few weeks. The first change has already happened with the departure of commercial manager Brian Sims, who has only been with the team since January. He has been replaced by Paul Jordan, who spent last season working at British American Racing but has been involved in F1 on and off since 1984 after an early career in motorcycle racing.

We have also heard suggestions that Benetton's former operations director Joan Villadelprat could be on the verge of returning to run the team. Villadelprat and Briatore worked together through the 1990s at Benetton but the Spaniard left the team at the end of last year hoping to establish an all-Spanish F1 team with the support of Telefonica. Our sources indicate that the deal to transform Minardi into a new team will not now happen and that Villadelprat may be looking for a job. Briatore will be keen to get Villadelprat as he effectively ran the team for Briatore as the Italian has little knowledge of motor racing, beyond the commercial aspects of the sport.

There have also been whispers in the paddock that Briatore may also be looking at getting rid of Alexander Wurz unless the Austrian driver starts to deliver better results. Briatore has always tried to find young drivers (who are cheap) and over the years he has signed deals with the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fisichella and Jarno Trulli. Often the deals have involved long-term management contracts as well.

At Silverstone there were hints that Briatore is showing interest in Italian racer Giorgio Pantano, who is racing this year in the German Formula 3 series.

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