JUNE 19, 1995
Verstappen looks for work
SIMTEK'S number one driver 23-year-old Dutchman Jos Verstappen finds himself out of work after the closure of the team - but he should be back in action shortly.
Verstappen is under contract to Benetton boss Flavio Briatore, who snatched him on a long-term contract in January, 1994 - despite the fact that Jos had only 19 months of racing experience behind him. Verstappen was to test in 1994 before racing for Benetton this year. A week after he was confirmed as Benetton's test driver, JJ Lehto broke his neck in a testing crash and Verstappen was thrown in at the deep end as Michael Schumacher's team mate. He qualified ninth on his F1 debut but was taken out of the race in a huge somersaulting accident, when Eddie Irvine crashed collided with him and the pair smashed into Martin Brundle.
He had a number of accidents in his 10 races for the team but twice finished on the podium and ended the year 10th in the World Championship. Briatore signed up Johnny Herbert to partner Schumacher for 1995 and farmed Verstappen out to Simtek in exchange for Benetton gearbox technology.
Now that Simtek has shut down, Briatore has to find Verstappen another drive - and pay for it. The most likely destination is Arrows where Gianni Morbidelli would be displaced. Verstappen did his first F1 test with the Milton Keynes team in September,Ê1993, and is close to Arrows technical director Alan Jenkins.
Morbidelli, however, has a habit of being able to find money from Italy when his drive is in danger; and if that proves to be the case, Verstappen will have to look elsewhere. McLaren is a possibility as Ron Dennis showed a lot of interest in Jos before he was signed by Benetton. Ron, however, will want Verstappen on a long-term contract and will not want to help Briatore nurture a talent which will later be used against McLaren.