Motor Racing: Hill confronts life on the track after Senna: After the double tragedy at Imola, it is back to the wheel. Derick Allsop reports from Monte Carlo

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The Independent Online
DAMON HILL will today take up the standard left by Ayrton Senna and endeavour to prove to himself, his team and the fans of his dead partner that he is equal to the task.

Just as his father, Graham, had to shoulder the responsibility of leading the team effort after the death of Jim Clark, in 1968, the burden now falls on Hill Jnr to carry the Williams-Renault cause.

On the eve of first practice for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, Hill said: 'It's not a question of being ready. There's no alternative. I believe I can do it and I know that with the support of the Williams team, I've every chance of making a success of this season.

'I feel responsible to the team, to myself and Ayrton to make the best possible job of this year. I'd give anything to be having to catch Ayrton this weekend. It was always a case of watching what he did. Now we are going to have to find out for ourselves what we can do.'

This is, indeed, the test for Hill, Williams' sole driver this weekend. He will be examined as never before. His father responded by winning the championship. That may be too much to ask of him. He trails Benetton-Ford's Michael Schumacher by 23 points and the German must be favourite here.

The title itself, however, is not the central issue this weekend. Hill and the others go back to work under the intense scrutiny of the world following the crashes which killed Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola. Gerhard Berger, former team-mate and friend of Senna, and compatriot of Ratzenberger, will return to the track but, he concedes, he does not know for how long.

The Ferrari driver said: 'Formula One is my life. It is still my dream to tell my children I was world champion. But I have the rest of my life and it could be that it will not be right when I get in the car, but I am in the wrong place. The moment I feel the concentration on the racing is not enough, that I'm not giving it 100 per cent, I will know I cannot do it anymore. The only way to find out is to drive. If I don't want it, I'll get out of the car and go home.'

Hill drove at Silverstone on Monday. He said: 'For the first few laps I was trying to imagine the consequences of an accident at any given point of the circuit. It was important for me to understand that. But it doesn't take long to get back the enjoyment of driving a car on the limit.

'Monaco, like any circuit, has its inherent dangers. But it is one of the greatest races and the fact that Ayrton Senna won it a record six times makes it very special.'

'It is a very important race and very important we show the world that people in Formula One are professional and perform to the highest standards. I think most will breathe a sigh of relief when the race is over. I have to draw on any experience in life, not only my father's but my own, and approach the future in the right way.'

Both Hill and Berger acknowledge partial guilt for the tragedies of Imola. Hill said: 'Nobody can say they aren't partly to blame. We all went to Imola and tested there earlier in the season but although there were certain fears there wasn't the impetus to do anything.'

Berger admitted he had accepted that because a river ran behind the wall at Tamburello, where he survived a crash in 1989 and where Senna was killed. 'Nothing could be done,' Berger said, 'but we could change the circuit. We didn't push enough.'

The drivers are pushing now, demanding a greater and permanent voice in governing the safety standards of cars and circuits. They meet here tomorrow, a rest day, to begin formulating their proposals.