DECEMBER 2, 1996
What does it all mean?
JOS VERSTAPPEN's precipitous signing with Tyrrell suggests that the Dutchman had been made aware of the fact that there was no drive available for him elsewhere.
But what other plans could there be?
At the moment Jordan has only Ralf Schumacher under contract. He is completely new to F1 and there is pressure on Jordan from Peugeot and Benson & Hedges to find a star driver for 1997. The original intention was to sign Damon Hill but when TomÊWalkinshaw grabbed the World Champion, Jordan was forced to look at a way getting Jean Alesi out of Benetton. This failed. There was also an attempt to get Mika Salo out of his Tyrrell contract. This also failed. The only logical candidate appeared to be Verstappen, although Martin Brundle has been hoping that in the end his vast F1 experience will work in his favor, despite the fact that some members of the Jordan hierarchy are not Brundle fans. None of the other available candidates (Jean-Christophe Boullion and Gianni Morbidelli being the obvious ones) seemed to be a better bet than Verstappen.
One other explanation is that Jordan plans to sign 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell as we suggested in mid-October (Inside F1, Week 43). This story emerged in the British national newspapers last week and the Jordan team has since admitted that contact was made with Mansell but that "there has been no direct dialogue or any on-going discussions since then."
This is hard to accept given that Mansell made several public statements at the time saying he was not finished with F1 racing and given that Eddie Jordan has no obvious option to keep Peugeot and Benson & Hedges happy.
Jordan has proved in the past that he does not give up until there is absolutely no chance of a deal so the suggestion that he has sat around doing nothing for the last six weeks after a chat with Mansell is patently absurd.
With Verstappen having signed for Tyrrell - which is clearly a less competitive option than Jordan - it could be that Eddie has succeeded in doing a deal with Mansell...