JANUARY 9, 2004
Jordan to announce Verstappen on Monday?
The Dutch motor racing fraternity seem to be convinced that Jos Verstappen has now done his deal with Jordan Grand Prix and that an announcement to that effect will be made on Monday. This makes perfect sense as Verstappen has the largest pot of sponsorship at the moment and has nowhere else to go, while Jordan wants as much money as possible from his drivers. Verstappen's cash comes from Trust Computers and the Muermans real estate company. It is believed that he has as much as $15m, although his salary must come out of that as well, so the team will probably be picking up only around $12m.
The deal has been under negotiation since the middle of December when Verstappen's manager Michel Perridon announced that Jos had stopped talking to Minardi. Eddie Jordan flew by helicopter to Trust headquarters in Dordrecht, Holland on December 17 and had discussions with Perridon and Harrie Muermans, the boss of the Muermans. It is rumoured that the deal has recently been signed and that the announcement is now waiting for the transfer of money which should be completed by Monday.
The news - if it comes - will be a major blow for the ambitions of Nick Heidfeld as he had hoped to take up an option to join the team but does not apparently have the money that is needed to secure the drive.
The second Jordan seat is the last available to race in 2004 and this is expected to go to either Allan McNish or Ralph Firman, with the backing of Benson & Hedges, which will pay $18m to the team if it takes a British driver. McNish has the advantage of being one of the most experienced development drivers in F1, having previously worked for McLaren, Benetton and Toyota before getting a season racing with Japanese team in 2002. Last year he made an important contribution to Renault's success and his inclusion in the Jordan team would be a big bonus as time to evaluate tyres will be very short during Grands Prix weekends in 2004.
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