Latest to be offered a job at Stewart Ford, to be renamed Jaguar for next season, is Ralf Schumacher. The offer of a reputed $9 million was turned down by the young German, who would have had to have been bought out of his contract with Williams.
Schumacher has performed consistently well for the Grove-based team, once the class of the field. Having lost their Renault engine when the French manufacturer pulled out of Formula1 at the end of 1997, they have been struggling to stay in the top four.
It is believed that a new engine deal with BMW due to start next year will turn things around for the team, giving Schumacher a more than even chance of winning races, and for that reason he was content to stay where he is.
Mika Salo, currently deputising for the injured Michael Schumacher, has also been offered a seat but he seems to be waiting on the outcome of the Irvine/Barrichello swap that is supposedly to be cleared up at Monza. Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine is rumoured to be trading places with the Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello for a Jaguar drive in 2000, although all parties are keeping tight-lipped.
Both Alex Wurz and Heinz Harald Frentzen are staying put with Benetton and Jordan respectively, as is Jacques Villeneuve at BAR. Jarno Trulli is thought to be off to Jordan to replace Damon Hill and Olivier Panis will probably remain with Prost. This leaves Ford with little to buy should Irvine not take the deal.
Meanwhile poor Johnny Herbert, who is the only one with a legitimate contract with the team for another year, seems to have been left out of all negotiations. His poor performance this year, partly down to bad luck, will not have done his negotiating powers much good but he seemed cautiously optimistic about staying with the team in its first year under a new Marque.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm driving for Ford in Formula1 next year," he said. "It would cost a lot to buy me out of my contract." Unfortunately for Herbert money seems to be of little object to the American giant, and his contract could quite easily be passed on to another team with a twirl of a ball point pen.
Modificado em 27-6-99
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