SEPTEMBER 9, 1996
Another possible scenario
ONE other theory doing the rounds at Monza suggested that Damon Hill could end up at McLaren alongside David Coulthard.
Hakkinen signed a Benetton option some months ago. This was allowed to lapse by the team but the idea of a move has been revived with the news that Damon Hill is leaving Williams.
If Alesi moves to Jordan and Hakkinen to Benetton there would be a seat available for Hill at McLaren. Damon is well-known to McLaren advisor Alain Prost, David Brown and David Coulthard all of whom worked with him at Williams. His presence would also give West McLaren Mercedes the coveted number one on the car next season.
Dennis, however, has not shown much obvious interest in signing up Hill and our sources at McLaren suggest that a deal is very unlikely. Dennis says he would like to hold on to Hakkinen but is under pressure from his new sponsor West to run a German driver. Ralf Schumacher is the only obvious candidate and he has tested for the team twice in recent weeks.
Ron Dennis, however, is not one who favors using new drivers in F1. Dennis's experience with Grand Prix novices has not been good: Michael Andretti in 1993 and Andrea de Cesaris in 1981 were both disastrous signings and Dennis is unlikely to risk a similar debacle.
We think that a more likely scenario is that Ralf Schumacher will either become the McLaren test driver or will be signed up by Jordan on a two-year contract to learn the ropes in F1.
Dennis says that the team will make a decision about drivers within the next 10 days and an announcement should be made in Estoril.
Ron Dennis's ultimate aim could be to run the Schumacher Brothers in 1999. That will, of course, depend on the team returning to winning form - which is now largely resting on Dennis's ability to find a new designer. The good news for McLaren is that it seems that Ron has finally faced up to the fact that McLaren does need a new and powerful technical chief - something which goes against all his previous theories about engineering teams.