SEPTEMBER 1, 1997
WITH Williams having closed the door on Gerhard Berger - who was offering to drive for the team for very little money - and the announcement from McLaren that it is sticking with the same two drivers next year, Gerhard Berger's future in F1 is decidedly uncertain.
The Austrian announced just before the German GP that he would "definitely not be with Benetton next year" and would remain in F1 "only if I can drive for a top team." It is arguable whether Jordan, Prost and Sauber can be described as top teams and it would seem that Berger's only real choice now is to forget what he said about Benetton and return next year. There are suggestions in Italy that the Benetton Family is very keen on that idea and that Berger may agree, but only if the team is reorganized without Flavio Briatore, who is being blamed for Berger's decision not to stay.
The future of Briatore has been in doubt for some months but the Benetton Family has yet to make any announcement about the future, although there continue to be strong rumors linking the Enstone team with Prodrive boss David Richards and with the Malaysian car company Proton.
Benetton's only current signing for 1998 is Giancarlo Fisichella and that deal is being disputed by Fisichella's current employer Eddie Jordan. The FIA Contract Recognition Board in Geneva is due to decide on the deal within the next few days. Benetton is believed to have an option on Austrian Alexander Wurz until the end of September and may also be able to get hold of Prost's Jarno Trulli if Alain decides that he does not want to keep the promising Italian.