Motor racing: Hill keen to join Monaco club

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The Independent Online
It is a nonsense of a place, event, and, particularly, motor race, and yet still it stands alone, the one they have all heard of, the one they all want to win.

And perhaps with good reason. Wash away the phoney glitz and brush away the glitzy phoneys of the Monaco Grand Prix, and you arrive at a few facts which indicate that this winding, folding, narrow ribbon of road separates the greats from the not so.

Only three drivers have won here over the past 12 years - Alain Prost, four times, Ayrton Senna, a record six, and Michael Schumacher, twice - hence Damon Hill's intense desire to include this race on his list of conquests en route to a likely championship success this season.

There is, of course, added poignancy for Hill. His father, Graham, was the undisputed four-wheeled version of the Prince of Monaco, his landmark of five victories resisting all-comers until Senna. But Hill's mission is to be his own man and to triumph here on Sunday would be to take another significant stride towards that end.

Hill, heading the table by 21 points from his Williams team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, said: "It carries a great deal of kudos if you win at Monaco. It's up there with the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans. It's the jewel in the crown of the championship. To win it tells you you are a racing driver.

"Monaco stands alone on the calendar. We're challenged in a completely different way. It's exciting and terrifying in equal quantities, for the spectators as well as the drivers. It's a unique experience, a one-off.

"It's a bit of an anachronism in terms of safety compared with other circuits, but we accept it. I don't think you'll find a driver who isn't looking forward to the challenge. You are working all the time. It's tough mentally.

"It's one of those extra things I'd like to win, as well as the championship, but you can't force it. You need a bit of fortune. I could live without winning it, but it would be nice to have another Hill on the trophy."

Schumacher may be sufficiently encouraged by Ferrari's progress to believe he can keep the Englishman out of the exclusive club for at least another year. If the German earns pole and starts well, he could prove an extremely elusive target.