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Villadelprat goes...

THE long-expected resignation of Benetton Formula's Operations Director Joan Villadelprat has been confirmed by the team. The Spaniard has been running the team for the last 10 years but in recent months his name has been linked to a job with the Minardi team - under its new Telefonica ownership. Villadelprat has been contemplating returning to his native Barcelona region for some time and it may be that he will spend this year putting together a factory in that region. It was rumored some months ago that a factory has already been selected in Barcelona for the revamped Minardi team. Villadelprat has a good knowledge of the best people in F1 and would be able to recruit some of them to work in the area.

The other possibility which should not be excluded is that he will go to work for the Prost team in Paris. Joan worked with Alain Prost at McLaren in the mid-1980s and then followed John Barnard to Ferrari and from there to Benetton. A team organizer of Villadelprat's stature would undoubtedly help the French team to recruit new staff.

Villadelprat's departure is not a surprise as he quit the team a couple of months ago but was then convinced to withdraw his resignation. At the time he was unhappy that Benetton team boss Rocco Benetton had been talking to Rupert Manwaring about giving the Englishman the top operational job in the team.

Villadelprat's departure comes in the wake of the resignation of chief designer Nick Wirth and the departure of the team's marketing boss David Warren means that Rocco Benetton has lost three of his most senior members of staff within a couple of months.

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