APRIL 28, 1997
What engine for Jordan?
THERE was a lot of talk in the Imola paddock about who will supply the Jordan team with engines in 1998 as Peugeot is expected to begin an exclusive deal with Prost Grand Prix.
Jordan blocked the sale of Ligier to Alain Prost last winter for nearly a month in an effort to win the concession that Peugeot might continue to supply Jordan in 1998 if the results were good. But if Jordan does not have Peugeot what else is available?
On the face of it there are the Mugen Honda V10, the Mecachrome V10 and the Ford V10 customer engines. At Imola there was much talk of a bid by Jordan to get hold of the Mugen engines. However, it could be that Jordan is working on another idea. Bernie Ecclestone has been trying to convince all the engine manufacturers to support more than one team.
If this was to happen one could add Mercedes-Benz to the list of possible engines. It is hard to imagine that Mercedes would consider splitting with McLaren after all the investment in recent years but now that the engine is clearly competitive, it might be in Mercedes-Benz's interest to have a second team. Despite David Coulthard's recent win in Australia, McLaren is not yet in a position to win on a regular basis and although Adrian Newey has been recruited his real influence will not really be felt until 1999.
The contract between McLaren and Mercedes will almost certainly include performance-related clauses which could be used to force McLaren to forget its exclusivity. Williams had an exclusive deal with Renault in 1995 but the French company wanted to sign Michael Schumacher and so Williams was forced to accept that Benetton be supplied with identical engines.
Mercedes is known to be desperate to get its hands on a German driver. McLaren is bidding to sign up Michael Schumacher but there is no reason for him to leave Ferrari at the moment as McLaren is not as competitive as the Italian team. RalfÊSchumacher is doing extremely well and is the obvious candidate but he has a three-year contract with Jordan. We understand that this includes a clause stating that the team must have a factory engine.
At Imola we spotted someone from Mercedes-Benz spending a great deal of time in the Jordan garage, watching to see how the team was operating.
Wheeling and dealing over Mercedes engines may also be behind Flavio Briatore's failure to name Benetton's engine deal for next year - despite having said a month ago that it would all be made public within a matter of days.