Williams has run into a dispute with engine supplier Mecachrome, but despite rumours that it has had talks with Mugen Honda, it’s expected to continue with the French engines next season.
Williams’s relationship with Mecachrome has been complicated by the involvement of former Benetton boss Flavio Briatore, who is in charge of marketing the engines.
Apparently Williams was told that the team would have to re-negotiate a new contract with Briatore’s Supertec company if it wanted to use the heavily-revised engine Renault is producing for Mecachrome in 1999.
This is contrary to the terms of Williams’s contract, which was signed in 1997 for the team to use the French V10s until the end of 1999 and benefit from the developments Renault carried out.
Briatore has also increased the price for the engine for 1999 by a third from the £13 million that Williams is supposed to pay for each of the two years of its contract.
While Williams appear to have solved their dispute following talks with Supertec, other teams that use the engine next year will have to pay the increased fee.
Last year Williams was given a written promise by Renault Sport president Patrick Faure, that only one other team would use the Mecachrome. That although now it seems that at least three teams will have the engine and possibly more.
The new British American Racing team signed its contract last week and Benetton is also expected to continue with the engine for another season.
Mecachrome engineers are already uneasy about their ability to supply three teams, and they are coming under pressure to supply even more.
Arrows, Sauber and Minardi are also interested. Sauber however is expected to continue with Ferrari, while Minardi, is understood to have been told that it cannot have a Mecachrome.
With Williams having a contract direct with Mecachrome, and everyone else having to deal with Supertec, it also remains unclear whether all the Mecachrome engines supplied next year will be to the same specification.
To sum it up, ‘The engine supply situation is dire.’ said Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw.