AUGUST 18, 1997

Maneuvers at Benetton

LIFE is very complicated at the moment at Benetton.

LIFE is very complicated at the moment at Benetton. Bernie Ecclestone is trying hard to get Mercedes-Benz to agree to supply the team with its V10 engines next year while at the same time British American Tobacco is thought to be continuing its discussions with the Benetton Family over what the team is worth if it were to be sold to BAT.

We now hear that team boss Flavio Briatore is looking for someone to badge a supply of Mecachrome engines in a deal which would be similar to the arrangement between Ferrari and Sauber. This would neatly sidestep the problem of Mecachrome being unable to supply more than two teams with Benetton simply buying this year's engines and setting up its own engine facility to develop them in the future.

The rumor in Europe is that Flavio is pitching this idea to the Italian oil company Agip, although it is unclear why Agip would interested in such a deal unless it is planning to start building engines for the Italian car industry - which seems unlikely as this is already seriously over-capacity.

Unless Ecclestone is successful in convincing Mercedes-Benz to supply more than one team, it is likely that Benetton will use Mecachromes in one form or another next year. This is what Briatore has told the design team which is busy building the 1998 car with that information.