Motor Racing: Hill aims to regain his crown

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The Independent Online
FEW PERFORMERS can have been given such an introduction, even on the stage. "Damon Hill is the man who taught us how to win," Eddie Jordan told the invited audience.

Jordan launched their new car and their new challenge with characteristic pizzazz yesterday, their self-belief buoyed by a maiden Grand Prix win and fourth place in the championship last season.

But, much as Jordan himself strutted his stuff and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, his recruit from Williams, pleaded for recognition of the "foreigner" in the camp, this was more than anything about the new championship hopes of Hill, the 1996 title winner. Hill, who delivered Jordan that first success, in Belgium, will be 39 before this campaign is over and, having recovered much self-esteem following an ill-starred stint with Arrows and an abject first half of last season, might well have been contemplating a lap of honour before retiring to enjoy his wealth.

If he is, he was not letting on. "I'd like to win the championship this year and if not this year then I'd like to have another stab," he said. "It's not the time to be talking of going or quitting. I'm pumped up for this season. I'm very positive. I'm looking forward to more success."

The Englishman, who has always been required to prove himself in the eyes of a critical Formula One, will doubtless find an additional source of motivation in his pairing with Frentzen, the German accommodated at Williams by Hill's dismissal. "I'm not one to bear a grudge," Hill said, when asked to consider the piquancy. "It was a decision Frank Williams took. It's nice to have Heinz-Harald as a team-mate and I'm sure we have a lot in common to discuss."

The smirk could have been interpreted any way you wanted, but it is clear he is relishing the chance to put this particular record straight.

Just as last season, when Ralf Schumacher was the team's other driver, Hill will share No 1 status. He voiced his dissatisfaction with the arrangement 12 months ago, yet insists he has no concerns with it this time. "I have no problem not being outright No 1," he said. "I was No 1 at Arrows and couldn't do anything with it. It's not relevant."

Jordan is happy with the strategy and confident of success. He said: "The monkey is off our back now and any pressure we have has to be easier to bear than in the previous eight years. Now there is a very strong element of self-confidence, in the team, the drivers, the car and engine. That confidence takes the stress away from the problem. We can evaluate our progress and know we can improve. What we cannot evaluate as yet is the progress of the others, so it is impossible to say how far we can go."