NOVEMBER 6, 1995

Verstappen to Arrows

DUTCHMAN Jos Verstappen is to drive for Arrows in 1996.

DUTCHMAN Jos Verstappen is to drive for Arrows in 1996. The news has yet to be officially announced but the deal between Jackie Oliver and the young Dutchman is done. Jos is expected to be bring some sponsorship to the MiltonÊKeynes team, probably from the Dutch electronics giant Phillips, although there may also be money from Marlboro - which has often sponsored Arrows drivers in the past.

Verstappen is only 23 but already has a considerable amount of F1 experience. He had his first F1 test with Arrows at Estoril in the autumn of 1993 - soon after Verstappen had won the highly-competitive German F3 Championship at his first attempt. So impressive was that test that McLaren gave the Dutchman a run one month later.

McLaren looked on the verge of signing Jos, but Benetton boss Flavio Briatore stole Verstappen from under Ron Dennis's nose, offering him a six-year Benetton contract. The plan had been for Jos to test in 1994 but almost immediately JJ Lehto crashed heavily in testing at Silverstone, and Verstappen was drafted in alongside Michael Schumacher for his first Grand Prix in Brazil in 1994. When Lehto returned to action, Verstappen was pushed back to a testing role until Briatore decided to fire Lehto and the Dutchman returned to the race team.

He was not retained for 1995, but Briatore did a deal for Jos to drive for Simtek instead. Since the team went bust in June, Verstappen has been out of work, although he has done a few tests for Benetton.

At the end of September he was released from his contract, Briatore having apparently convinced himself that Verstappen is not what Benetton is looking for. This may turn out to be a mistake as Verstappen needs a little more time to develop. Briatore did not seem to be willing to wait, the Benetton boss seemingly under the impression that another Schumacher will come along and land in his lap. Many F1 observers believe that given a year or two in a good solid team, Verstappen will probably become a star.