SEPTEMBER 30, 1996
The post-Hill driver market
THE Hill-Arrows announcement is likely to precipitate a fair amount of movement on the F1 driver market in the next few days as everyone was waiting for Damon's decision.
The news will have come as a major shock to Eddie Jordan, who had been hoping to sign Hill. He now has a seat available alongside Ralf Schumacher. Rumors in recent days have suggested that he has been chasing Indycar's rising star AlessandroÊZanardi. This is not likely to happen as Alex - who drove briefly for Jordan at the end of 1991 - is already under contract to Chip Ganassi and looks to have a more competitive package in America than Jordan can offer him in F1.
In Portugal Jordan asked Rubens Barrichello not to sign any other contracts until it was clear what Hill was going to do, and so he must be the favorite to stay with Jordan for a fifth season. He may decide, however, that it is time to start a new relationship with Sauber - although being Johnny Herbert's team mate would probably not appeal to him.
Others who would like to drive for Jordan are Martin Brundle - who is also talking with Sauber and Stewart - and the Jordan test driver Gianni Morbidelli. The Italian needs to get back into racing if he wants to resurrect his F1 career and is understood to be under consideration by Stewart and Sauber.
With Diniz likely to move on from Ligier there will probably be a seat available in the French team. The choice of driver will be interesting as it will give an idea as to the way Ligier is going in the future. If there is some kind of deal between Alain Prost and Flavio Briatore - as has been rumored - we can expect to see another Frenchman - Jean-Christophe Boullion or Emmanuel Collard are the obvious candidates. If Briatore is purely looking for money it could go to Rosset or Japanese racers Ukyo Katayama or Toranosuke Takagi.
Sauber needs a driver to join Johnny Herbert and being well-funded the team will be looking for the best talent available. Up and coming stars Jorg Muller and Norberto Fontana could figure here.
Stewart has yet to sign anyone but has been talking to Brundle, Barrichello and Morbidelli - amongst others. Stewart had decided to wait until Hill had made a decision before taking any action on drivers. McLaren test driver Jan Magnussen remains a strong candidate for one of the Stewart cars.
Tyrrell's position looks increasingly difficult - with Yamaha on its way to Arrows - but the team has a major asset in MikaÊSalo. The major priority now will be to find an engine deal. A Hart V8 is the obvious choice for a one-year deal.
Minardi will no doubt have its driver influenced by Flavio Briatore - tipped to have bought a controlling interest in the team's holding company. Giancarlo Fisichella is likely - he has a long-term deal with Minardi - and Tarso Marques would probably like the second drive, depending on whether Arrows have anything to offer him in the long-term.