Motor Racing: Arrows and Hill to part

The luckless union between Damon Hill and Arrows is to end. But, in opting to let his exit be made public so soon, Hill has reduced his limited options for next year. Derick Allsop reports
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The Independent Online
Damon Hill's split with Arrows-Yamaha was announced yesterday, suggesting the world champion's future lies with Jordan. Arrows have pre-empted any statement by Hill in naming Finland's Mika Salo as the man who will partner Pedro Diniz next year. A spokeswoman for Arrows said the team had decided to invest money saved on Hill's pounds 4.5m contract in technical development.

Prost also dashed any hopes Hill may have of joining them in a statement which said: "Following talks with Damon Hill concerning a possible drive for 1998, the two parties have failed to come to a satisfactory agreement and discussions have now come to a close."

It has long been the belief within Formula One that neither Hill nor Arrows was eager to continue their association and the team's initiative indicates Hill has decided on alternative employment.

Jordan re-emerged as potential candidates for the Englishman this week, when they lost a legal dispute with Benetton over the services of the Italian driver, Giancarlo Fisichella.

Although Hill, 37 yesterday, rejected an earlier approach from Jordan and the prospect of a $4m-plus deal, it is thought the team's sponsors would be willing to bankroll the required balance.

However, Jordan have until today to decide whether to appeal against the High Court verdict and are continuing to seek advice from their lawyers.

Another round of negotiations is guaranteed at this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix. Although Jean Alesi is out of the equation, signed by Sauber, Gerhard Berger is still on the loose and could yet be a contender for the Jordan seat.

Hill's relationship with Arrows has been poor since his admonishment by the team director, Tom Walkinshaw, at the British Grand Prix. That second place in Hungary was not enough to stave off the inevitable.

Walkinshaw had no intention of being left embarrassed by Hill's defection, and elected to tie up 30-year-old Salo. Walkinshaw said: "We looked carefully at the options and, after discussing the matter with our technical partners and sponsors, realised Mika would be the most appropriate driver for us. We have had a learning year and am sure the talents of both Mika and Pedro will provide the partnership to take us forward.

"I want to thank Damon Hill for his contribution this year. It has been invaluable to have the world champion driving for us and I want to wish him the best of luck for the future."