AUGUST 30, 1999

Minardi and the Spanish

THERE have been rumors for some weeks that Telefonica and other Spanish sponsors may be on the verge of buying the Minardi team. For months Giancarlo Minardi has been refusing to agree to move the team away from Faenza but it is looking increasingly likely that if this does not happen the team will have to fold because it does not yet have an engine supply. There is a projected deal with Supertec for next year but the team needs to find the money to pay for the engines and time is running out. It may be that Minardi will eventually be forced to accept that the team will have to be sold and be allowed to move.

There have been stories circulating for some weeks about a possible all-Spanish team involving Telefonica, Repsol, MarcÊGene, Pedro de la Rosa and Benetton's operations director Joan Villadelprat. We even hear that a factory has been located in the Barcelona area so that work can begin quickly if the deal is struck. It makes a lot of sense for this to happen. Villadelprat is not at all happy that Benetton has hired Rupert Manwaring to advise Rocco Benetton but to date the Spaniard has been keeping his options open. With Arrows expected to go off towards a Nissan-Renault deal next year there may not be room for Pedro de la Rosa and Repsol and there are now no other options open for the Spanish driver. It is also worth pointing out that de la Rosa's manager Julian Jakobi has recently signed up the next rising Spanish star Oriol Servia, who is currently a frontrunner in Indy Lights in the United States. Jakobi - who had ambitions of being an F1 team owner initially with Ayrton Senna but more recently with BAR - may be involved in putting the deal together, having identified Spain as being an untapped source of considerable sponsorship potential.

The arrival of a Spanish team would be a big boost for F1 in general and would help to create more interest in F1 in the Spanish-speaking world.