Hill keeps mind on main point

The planes of Damon Hill's face remained set like a poker player's yesterday, betraying none of the inner tension that he will undoubtedly be feeling as he prepares for the final push to the top of a mountain twice conquered by his father, Graham.

He spoke quietly of his feelings before Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, which will decide the outcome of a world championship that seemed his for the asking at the mid-season point. Outwardly he appeared calm and confident, as if he had not fluffed similar chances in the recent races in Hungary and Italy, and by his own hand prolonged the fight until this final stage.

Shrugging thoughts of the championship from his mind has not been easy, he admitted, in the weeks since his failure to capitalise on early advantages at both the Hungaroring and Monza. "I would be lying if I said that it hadn't taken a conscious effort not to be thinking about winning the championship," he said. "Now I'm here I know I can go into my race routine, and things take care of themselves from that point onwards."

Jackie Stewart, three times the world champion, recently advised Hill to adapt a "pretty damn canny" approach if he found he were unable to lead Sunday's race, and Hill pondered the tactics he would employ to defeat his team-mate and sole rival, Jacques Villeneuve. "I certainly have to take into account that the championship is paramount. To win another race would be great but not as great as winning the championship, so there is a little bit of weighing up to do in mind whether I want to take more risk and tackle it with a view to winning the race, or to ensure that I finish in the points in order to win the title. But I'm always nervous about taking a cautious approach because sometimes that throws up other difficulties."

He admitted that easing his concentration had proved his downfall at Monza, and added: "The best position to be in in any grand prix is in the lead. You are much more in command of what's going on. But if I'm running in the points I'll be very, very happy and will concentrate on finishing there."

His ace is the knowledge that Villeneuve must win without his rival scoring a point, whereas all he needs is sixth place. It is a strong psychological advantage.

"Jacques has the pressure on him. There's no way he can win the championship unless he wins the race. Whereas at least I have some options. But there's always pressure at a grand prix, and the thing for me is that I know that I can become world champion on Sunday. It's a motivating factor as much as anything."

Suzuka, a fast, twisting circuit that rewards daring and improvisation, has given Hill his greatest and lowest races. In 1994, he beat Michael Schumacher fair and square in dire conditions. Last year, he crashed ignominiously. He loves the track. "It's tremendous, and I'll never forget that race in 1994. It was one of the most difficult I have ever done, and one of the most satisfying. And this race will certainly live up to expectations of being The Event."

Although he detests the idea that his entire career has distilled to this one point on which achievements of the past will be judged, he is sufficiently rounded now to accept the focus the world has placed on his performance this weekend. He smiled. "My whole purpose has been to win a championship, by winning races, and I have the opportunity on Sunday to do that. I expect that there will be a lot said after Sunday... I hope that most of it will be saying that Damon Hill is world champion."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own