Hill tries to defuse war of words

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Motor Racing


Damon Hill attempted yesterday to put the brake on his verbal conflict with Michael Schumacher, warning of the potential dangers should it spill on to the track in Sunday's British Grand Prix.

The two leading drivers in the Formula One World Championship have exchanged cutting remarks since Schumacher beat Hill in France 12 days ago. The Englishman called his rival "a clone"; the German replied with: "He's moody and worried".

But Hill, of Williams-Renault, trailing Benetton-Renault's Schumacher by 11 points, said: "I don't think it's good to have a falsified sense of antagonism between two guys who are driving machines along a narrow strip of tarmac at 180mph.

"If there really is any dislike between two drivers there is no way of preventing that. But my intention is to win and Michael is the guy leading the championship and my aim is to beat him. The friction should be purely competitive."

Hill continued: "There's bound to be more static between guys who've got in their hands the opportunity to win, so it's inevitably going to be difficult between us. It's very difficult to have a relationship and that partly explains the paranoia."

Hill insisted he did not intend to insult Schumacher, although he preferred not to contemplate any prospect of being the champion's partner, although Benetton, like Ferrari, deny any interest in Hill. "There are a number of reasons why I wouldn't like to be his team-mate," Hill said. "We are treading on each other's toes all the time."

The manoeuvring for places next season has begun and, as Hill concedes, Schumacher is calling the shots. Hill, whose contract with Williams expires at the end of the season, is exploring his options, and his aides are eager to convey the impression he is being courted by other teams. "It's obvious in my position that I am keen to talk to other teams and I have been talking to other teams. I've also been talking to Frank Williams," Hill said.

"I am very happy at Williams. I've got a great team behind me. I've been there five years as test and race driver, and they are very much my Formula One family. It would be very good to carry on at Williams, but I don't know what's going to happen. If you perform, team managers want you."

Hill knows he must perform at Silverstone to stay in touch with Schumacher in the title chase, and strengthen his stock in the market-place.