Motor Racing: Odds are in favour of Hill

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The Independent Online
DAMON HILL'S arrival as a Formula One racer of substance could not only secure him a new contract with Williams-Renault, but also consign Ayrton Senna to exile.

The spectre of Senna has hung over Hill all summer, the former never missing the opportunity to inform the world of his desire to drive for Williams, or make contact with Frank Williams and discuss the prospects of their joining forces. Those prospects, however, appear to be diminishing. Hill has won two consecutive races, Sunday's success here earned the hard way, by beating off Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Ford and the Williams of his team-mate, Alain Prost.

Hill already had the popular vote at Williams, as well as Prost's support. Renault, too, would be content to stay with the same driver line-up for next year. This is a united and effective team. The constructors' championship is won, Prost's drivers' title is likely to be secured in Italy, on Sunday week.

Quite apart from any financial considerations, Williams must fear a Senna-Prost partnership would divide the camp.

Frank Williams is adamant he will not discuss the driver issue until Prost's championship has been wrapped up. The signs are that he will be ready to choose his man immediately that job is done and an announcement could be made in a fortnight. The imminence of a decision would seem to indicate the odds are favouring Hill.

So where would that leave Senna? He has talked of his wish to drive for Ferrari before he retires, a sentiment the Italians are no longer charmed by. He has been linked with Benetton, but sources there suggest he might not be welcome. He may demand another winter to assess the potential of McLaren, but would either party want to be subjected to the uncertainty all over again? The other options are to take a sabbatical or try IndyCars.

If he does leave Formula One, there may not be too many tears shed. McLaren have provided him with the equipment to win three world championships yet over the past couple of seasons he has complained because he has not had the best car.

He gave Prost a hard time in the opening stages of the British and German grands prix, prompting many crictics to condemn his tactics. Schumacher, now his other main opponent, expressed displeasure with Senna's driving conduct here.

Prost is patently dismayed by his former team-mate's attitude. The Frenchman said: 'At Hockenheim I think he was hard but correct. I held my position and maybe surprised him. Silverstone was different, that was too hard. I have not spoken to him about this and should not need to. He does not come to me.'