OCTOBER 6, 1997
Williams confirms for 1998
AS predicted, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen will be staying with Williams in 1998 and the continuity of drivers should help the team as it tackles the new narrow track regulations next season.
As already reported Williams is already in the process of negotiating for the 1999 season with Jarno Trulli being mentioned as a likely replacement for Villeneuve who is expected to join the much talked about BAT Reynard team, in which he will have a shareholding.
The recruitment of Trulli - if it happens - is not expected to be the only big change at Williams as its contract with Rothmans runs out at the end of the season and the signs are that the cigarette maker is not planning to continue after five years and over 30 Grand Prix victories with the team.
For some time there have been rumors that the Rembrandt Group - which owns Rothmans - is planning to get out of the tobacco business, because of the increasing restrictions around the world. In all likelihood Rothmans would either be sold to a competitor or floated as an independent company and it would then be up to the new management to decide whether to continue in F1.
Thanks to its extraordinary run of results in recent years Williams is in the fortunate position that if Rothmans did pull out other big sponsors would probably offer to sponsor the team and with an F1 boom going on in Germany and BMW becoming the Williams engine supplier in the year 2000 the team should not have too much trouble finding replacement money.