Hill savours chance to turn the tables

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Damon Hill returns to the scene of his 1995 capitulation here on Sunday intent on demonstrating to all Germans, and one in particular, that his is the title campaign that is securely on course this time.

Three wins from three races have put the Englishman in command, two wins from the next two, the grands prix of Europe and San Marino, would have the rest virtually conceding come Sunday week.

Hill effectively did that here last autumn, when he dropped out and, from the side of the track, saluted the imperious Michael Schumacher's penultimate stride to his second world championship.

Gracious then and gracious now, Hill resisted the opportunity yesterday to talk of "sweet revenge" and other such emotions, although there is little doubt that is precisely what it would mean to him. Schumacher has tormented him on the circuit and off it, most recently by pointedly omitting Hill from his top six drivers.

Hill, heading the table by 18 points from his Williams team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, said: "My main aim is to do better than last year and it won't be difficult to do that. There will be lots of support for the world champion and I've managed to send the fans away happy in the last two German races. I hope this time to go away happy myself and that by Sunday week everybody will be sick of my face.

"He'll want to go well in front of his home crowd. There's every reason to believe he will eke out more than he does already, just as I do at Silverstone, but then that is extra motivation for me."

Schumacher, who has managed only a third place in the Ferrari, is likely to need more than motivation to threaten Hill. The 27-year-old German was testing in Italy yesterday while his arch adversary was relaxing at an unfamiliar, clement Nurburgring.

Hill said: "Ferrari are under pressure to perform. I think it's inevitable they will make a step forward.

"No matter how much he's paid at Ferrari, the satisfaction comes from doing well in the races and he will put pressure on the team to provide him with the equipment.

"It's the start of the European season and I think we're going to have a lot of fun from now on. I see this race as the opportunity to get another 10 points and press on."