Motor Racing Hill praised by Williams chief

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The Independent Online
Motor Racing

DERICK ALLSOP

Frank Williams, the team director of Williams-Renault, attempted a damage limitation exercise yesterday, denying he had called Damon Hill a "prat" after his collision with Michael Schumacher at Silverstone and acclaiming his driver as the only contender for the German's title.

Williams, in a statement released from his factory at Didcot, said: "Press reports alleging I labelled Damon Hill a 'prat' and apologised to the Benetton team after the incident during Sunday's British Grand Prix are totally erroneous. I congratulated Johnny Herbert on his win on behalf of our team, and told Michael Schumacher I thought it was a shame a good race had ended in such a way.

"Damon did all and more than we asked of him last weekend. The aim of the entire Williams-Renault team is to win both world championships and we know from not only his performance in the British Grand Prix, but also in his other 39 races with us, Damon is the only driver who can challenge Michael on equal terms."

An Italian newspaper story that Schumacher had agreed to switch from Benetton to Ferrari next season in a pounds 15m deal was denied yesterday by his manager, Willi Weber, who said: "At the moment everything is open."

Schumacher's contract with Benetton runs out at the end of the season. Last week the driver discounted the possibility of a move to McLaren.

However, the Benetton chief, Flavio Briatore, refused to rule out the chance of Schumacher swapping seats with Ferrari's Jean Alesi. "If Schumacher decides to leave our team, we will keep on winning grand prix races with another driver. Alesi is a driver I like very much," Briatore said.

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