Motor racing: Good news for Williams

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The Independent Online
Williams' pursuit of the Formula One world title will continue to be backed by Rothmans, who first formed their successful partnership with the Didcot-based team in 1994. The cigarette company has agreed to back Williams again next year.

No figure has been announced, but deals between a team and its main backer are usually put around pounds 20m.

The sponsorship extension comes as particularly welcome news for Williams, the sport's most successful team, as they face having to pay for engines from next year. Renault, who are pulling out of the sport, have handed over the supply of their engines to their partner, Mecachrome, although teams will have to pay for the engines in future, at a reported cost of around pounds 13m.

Frank Williams, who runs the team, expressed his delight at the new deal. "Whether it is on the track or in the office, continuity is one of the keys to success in the motor racing business."

But not necessarily in the cockpit, as Damon Hill could testify. The world champion's replacement at Williams, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, goes into this weekend's Argentinian Grand Prix with his talent and mental strength under severe scrutiny.

The German has been a disappointment in his opening two races with Williams. Frentzen was lying second in Australia before sliding out with brake failure with three laps left, but in Brazil he was unable to overtake Hill's Arrows before finishing ninth.

It is in qualifying that he has underperformed in comparison with his double pole winning team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve. Frentzen only took second place in Melbourne with a late run, but was still nearly two seconds slower than Villeneuve, while in Sao Paulo he was eighth on the grid.

The 29-year-old had to scrap a planned break in Brazil before this weekend's race, travelling to the team's headquarters in Grove instead for a meeting with Frank Williams.

"I know there is more to come from the car and from me," said Frentzen, who was tipped as a world championship candidatemo after swapping the Sauber for the Williams. "I know there is more pressure on me this year. But I can cope. Without doubt, I am hoping to be on a better position on the grid in Argentina.