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British Grand Prix Notebook

July 11, 1998

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) _ Michael Schumacher is close to signing a new three-year contract with Ferrari, reported to be worth a whopping $41 million a year.

Schumacher, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, joined Ferrari in 1996 and is trying to bring the storied Italian racing team its first series champion since 1979.

``There’s good reason that (new contract) could happen,″ the 29-year-old German said on the eve of Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Ferrari is being pressed by McLaren-Mercedes, which is reportedly trying to lure away the German.

McLaren-Mercedes’ Mika Hakkinen leads the series standings through eight races with 50 points to 44 for Schumacher and 30 for McLaren’s David Coulthard.

``He doesn’t want to win the world championship for McLaren, he wants to do it at Ferrari,″ Schumacher’s teammate, Eddie Irvine, said. ``He hasn’t spent three years here just for the money.″

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WILLIAMS CHANGES: Williams owner Frank Williams declined to confirm reports he’s signed Indy-car champion Alex Zanardi, was about to drop Heinz-Harald Frentzen and has given Jacques Villeneuve a deadline to re-sign.

``I’ll keep out of it and when we’re ready we’ll announce our drivers when we’ve singed them,″ Williams said Friday.

He did, however, confirm the changes will be made in a few weeks. ``That’s correct,″ he said. ``Sometime soon.″

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UN-GROOVY: Drivers are less than enthusiastic about the switch to grooved tires this year in Formula One. It was meant to slow cars, decrease grip and lead to more passing.

But overtaking has become more difficult and the cars are just as fast.

``It a little bit more difficult to race with and take liberties with than they were before,″ Hill said.

``Before you were sideways a few times and now you’re sideways every two corners, so you’re bound to go off more often even though the speed is similar to last year,″ Villeneuve said.

``All you can think is how nice it would be with slicks,″ Villeneuve added. ``It’s definitely more difficult. You are relying more on the aerodynamics.″

``For overtaking it’s pretty clear,″ Schumacher said. ``Less grip from the tires means more grip aerodynamically. The relationship is the wrong way from what we want for competing.″

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TIRE TALK: Despite rumors to the contrary, Goodyear is still set to leave Formula One after the season, leaving Bridgestone as the lone supplier.

``Nothing has changed since they made the announcement last November,″ Goodyear spokesman Dermot Bambridge said. ``We said our goal was to win this year, and that’s where the focus has been.

``But while the heart is still beating, the beast is still alive,″ he added. ``But I don’t really think it will happen.″

Goodyear is getting out, largely because it says the new grooved tires are used only in F1 and don’t lend themselves to developments in other types of racing.

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MCLAREN SLIPPING? Villeneuve figures McLaren will be caught if the team keeps making mistakes.

``The way McLaren started the season you wouldn’t have expected anybody to fight back,″ Villeneuve said. ``They still have the upper hand, the best machinery with the best engine and the drivers drive it pretty well.

``But somehow they managed not to get the points they should have gotten and Michael (Schumacher) has managed to get back in that fight. So it makes it interesting.″

The favorite? ``It depends if McLaren keep making mistakes.″

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