JULY 8, 1996

Stewart's driver search

STEWART GRAND PRIX said it would start looking for drivers for 1997 in the midsummer, and the recent weeks have seen a lot of rumors about who might be seen in the Stewart-Ford cars next year.

The team is very unlikely to be able to hire a topline driver - unless it has enormous financial backing, and that is not immediately obvious at the moment. David Coulthard and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were both high on Jackie Stewart's list of possible drivers, but Coulthard has announced that he is staying at McLaren and Frentzen is sufficiently frustrated by the Ford V10 engines that he will be looking to drive anything rather than a Ford next year. Rumors link the German with Williams.

The strongest rumor at the moment is that Stewart has signed a deal with Danish driver Jan Magnussen, currently the test driver at McLaren - although he has not been given very many miles this year. Magnussen drove for Paul Stewart Racing in Formula 3 and is frustrated in his current role at McLaren.

Another Stewart target has been Brazilian Gil de Ferran - another former PSR driver - but it is extremely unlikely that he will leave Indycar racing, where he is in demand, to join a fledgling F1 operation. If Gil can win the Indycar title he will undoubtedly try to get into F1, in which case he is likely to have the chance to leap straight into a good team - just as JacquesĂŠVilleneuve did this year.

"No drivers are signed at the moment," says Paul Stewart. "We will wait for the top teams to make up their minds first."