The Electronic Telegraph 15 December 1994 MOTOR RACING
By Timothy Collings
DAVID COULTHARD was officially stamped as the property of Williams-Renault yesterday when they emerged victorious from their legal dispute with McLaren shortly before he flew to Lisbon for a test session with the team at Estoril this morning.
But even after statements from both sides and the sought-after Scottish driver, who has yet to agree a deal to race for the Didcot team in 1995, it was clear there was still scope for plenty of further speculation over his future - and the identity of the Williams line-up for next season.
The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) contracts recognition board,which met in Geneva on Dec 2, announced yesterday that Williams, not McLaren, were "entitled to the services" of Coulthard "for the 1995 Formula One World Championship season."
It was an announcement that was greeted with satisfaction by Williams, who have still to reach agreement with Coulthard, 23, and to choose finally whether he or the 41-year-old Nigel Mansell should be Damon Hill's partner next year, but with understandable disappointment by McLaren.
Williams were unable to confirm the team would now be offering Coulthard a contract to match that which he had accepted, and signed, with McLaren.
Paid #5,000 a race - an insignificant sum in F1
It is believed that last season Williams were paying Coulthard less than #5,000 per race, an insignificant sum by Formula One standards, and that the young Scot, disappointed at his lack of recognition, had accepted an offer of #500,000 to race for McLaren next year.
Coulthard, talking through his agent Tim Wright, of the International Management Group, said yesterday: "All I have sought is a fair agreement and a good environment in which to perform to the best of my ability."
His brief statement indicated his disappointment - and many observers will sympathise with his position - at Williams's failure to offer him a satisfactory contract, reflecting his true ability, after he had driven for them in eight grands prix. Coulthard succeeded Ayrton Senna, who died at the San Marino Grand Prix earlier this year.
McLaren said in their statement: "We find the contracts recognition board's decision disappointing, but of course we'll respect its findings. However, as a result of this process, at least David is free to choose who he'll drive for in 1996 and beyond."
'At least David is free to choose who he'll drive for'
As the prolonged legal dispute between the two teams finally ended, it became clear that Mansell, who crowned his comeback by winning the Australian Grand Prix last month, may, after all, be in serious danger of losing his seat alongside Hill.
It had long been expected that the 1992 world champion, heavily backed by Williams's engine suppliers Renault and admired for his crowd appeal by Bernie Ecclestone, the president of the Formula One constructors' association, would be signed again by Williams for one final assault on the championship.
Mansell, however, was unavailable for comment last night as his younger rival travelled to Portugal, where his Williams career began, as a test driver, behind Senna and Hill last January.
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