Motor Racing: Hill brings a smile back to Williams team: Gear problems in Spain foil Schumacher's pursuit of record victory while in America Mansell fails to finish Indianapolis 500

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The Independent Online
THE tears here were of jubilation and relief, the full gamut of emotions exhausted at the end of this extraordinary month. Williams-Renault, the team in turmoil since the death of Ayrton Senna, were winners again. Damon Hill, who has borne the responsibility of leading and lifting them, allowed his elation to flood the podium after his victory in a Spanish Grand Prix which at last released some of the tension from Formula One.

No matter that Michael Schumacher had coaxed his Benetton-Ford through more than two-thirds of the race stuck in fifth gear, to take second place when first had seemed a formality, a drive which may well be adjudged one of the outstanding performances of the season ; or that the blown engine of Mika Hakkinen's McLaren-Peugeot removed another threat.

Hill devoured every moment of his triumph. Schumacher was contented with six more points to add to his world championship account, and Mark Blundell, third for Tyrell-Yamaha, extravagantly celebrated his first success of a hitherto frustrating year. Smiles were once more rippling across the face of grand prix motor racing.

Even on this weekend the drivers had seen a colleague hurt in an accident, the sixth horrific crash of this month. Mercifully, Andrea Montermini sustained relatively minor injuries and had maintained his sense of humour, saying a brain scan had discovered it to be full of spaghetti.

Hill's thoughts were shared with all of us yesterday. 'I don't think I have ever had such a difficult month or so,' he said. 'It was very important to do well but a win is better than I expected. This is better than any of the three wins I had last year. The circumstances made it much harder. I was very stressed before the race.

'This victory goes to everyone at Williams who have had this troubled time and to the fans of Ayrton Senna in Brazil, who can never see him winning in a Williams but told me they wanted me to. I took it extra slowly on the cool down lap to take it all in. This sort of race is the best medicine for Formula One, and certainly for Williams.'

It was Hill's and Williams' first win since last September, in Italy, and is not likely to be taken as a sign that another championship assault is safely under way, even if, when asked whether he might be able to catch Schumacher, Hill replied: 'Absolutely, no problem]' Hill was joking of course, and that in itself was a breakthrough. Schumacher, denied a record-equalling fifth victory from the first five races, has 46 points, Hill, in second place, has 17. Williams, however, rediscovered their sense of direction and, but for throttle and terminal electrical problems, the 23-year-old Scot, David Coulthard, on his debut, would have delivered more confidence-generating points.

Frank Williams, the team principal, said: 'This result is received with great relief. We needed a win for a million reasons, number one for Ayrton. Damon was put to the test and found not to be wanting. He has probably had the hardest time of all. He has shown just what a strong man he is.

'It is a great encouragement for the team. It will allow everyone here to go about their work with a smile on their face.'

Coulthard knew his claims were to be reviewed race by race, but he has done enough this weekend to secure his place for the next grand prix, in Canada, on 12 June.

Schumacher looked in command from the start yesterday, building a 2.5sec lead on the first lap and extending it with ease to 10sec after eight. Trouble, alas, lurked just around the corner.

He crawled away from a pit stop, after 21 laps, and was never to reproduce his early pace. 'I suddenly got stuck in fifth gear,' the German said. 'The team couldn't do anything about it. I had to make two pit stops like that. It meant using a different driving style. I didn't imagine I'd finish the race, so to finish second is like a victory.'

Blundell, who has endured his share of misfortune this season, inherited third place when Martin Brundle, in a McLaren, pulled up less than six laps from the end with a failed transmission and a blazing trail. Eddie Irvine, restored to the fold after serving a three-race suspension, also profited, collecting a point for sixth place in his Jordan-Hart. Johnny Herbert was not so lucky, his Lotus-Mugen Honda depositing itself in a gravel trap.

Silverstone changes, page 27

DETAILS FROM BARCELONA

SPANISH GRAND PRIX (65 laps, 4.747km, 2.95 miles) 1 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault 1hr 36min 14.474sec (192.366kph, 119.556mph); 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford 24.166sec behind; 3 M Blundell (GB) Tyrrell-Yamaha +1:26.969; 4 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari +1 lap; 5 P Martini (It) Minardi-Ford +1; 6 E Irvine (GB) Jordan-Hart +1; 7 O Panis (Fr) Ligier-Renault +2; 8 E Bernard (Fr) Ligier-Renault +3; 9 A Zanardi (It) Lotus-Mugen Honda +3; 10 D Brabham (Aus) Simtek-Ford +4; 11 M Brundle (GB) McLaren-Peugeot +6. Not classified: 12 J J Lehto (Fin) Benetton-Ford 53 laps completed; 13 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Peugeot 48; 14 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Mugen Honda 41; 15 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart 39; 16 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Footwork-Ford 35; 17 D Coulthard (GB) Williams-Renault 32; 18 B Gachot (Bel) Pacific-Ilmor 32; 19 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari 27; 20 G Morbidelli (It) Footwork-Ford 24; 21 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Sauber-Mercedes 21; 22 E Comas (Fr) Larousse-Ford 19; 23 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha 16; 24 M Alboreto (It) Minardi-Ford 4; 25 P Belmondo (Fr) Pacific-Ilmor 2; 26 O Beretta (Fr) Larrousse-Ford 0.

World Drivers' Championship standings: 1 Schumacher 46pts; 2 Hill 17; 3 Berger 10; 4 Alesi 9; 5 Barrichello 7; 6= N Larini (It), Brundle 6; 8= Hakkinen, Katayama, K Wendlinger (Aut), Blundell 4; 12= A de Cesaris (It), Fittipaldi 3; 14= Frentzen, Martini 2; 16= Irvine, Comas, Alboreto 1. Constructors' standings: 1 Benetton 46; 2 Ferrari 25; 3 Williams 17; 4 Jordan 11; 5 McLaren 10; 6 Tyrrell 8; 7 Sauber 6; 8= Footwork, Minardi 3; 10 Larrousse 1.

(Photograph omitted)

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