Motor Racing: Pit-lane admirers back Hill to repair his punctured dream - Shock in Hockenheim fails to dispel the enthusiasm mounting behind Britain's new driving force as he seeks security at Williams

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HE MAY not yet have the maiden Formula One victory he craves, but Damon Hill has won just about every vote for the Williams-Renault job next season and there can scarcely be any remaining doubt in the mind of Frank Williams. Assumuing Ayrton Senna remains out of bounds and he can cope with the attention of the British media, Williams must surely retain his No 2 driver.

Williams has no cause to rush, of course. His No 1 driver, Alain Prost, is safely locked in for 1994 and commercial and political considerations may be making Williams keep his options open a little longer. If there is no such obstacle in his way, would it not be in the best interests of all concerned to avoid another protracted contractual saga and sign Hill now? The team is settled, content and successful. The only member suffering any anxiety is Hill. The least he deserves in light of recent events is to be released from that.

In the last two races, at Silverstone and in Germany, he was denied success in cruel circumstances. Sunday's tyre failure, fewer than six miles from the line, was particularly savage. He cannot, however, be denied due appreciation for his endeavours. His supporters now include Martin Brundle, who was perhaps a more worthy claimant for the Williams drive this season and was justifiably dismayed by the eventual rebuff.

Brundle, enjoying an excellent season with Ligier-Renault, said: 'Unless Williams can afford to accommodate a second megastar, I don't see why their line-up should change. Damon has done better than anyone expected and deserves to drive for Williams next year. He's certainly done himself no harm.'

Hill also has the backing of his father's former boss, Rob Walker. Graham Hill may have won the world championship twice, but Walker, who is best known for his association with Stirling Moss, believes Hill junior is a more gifted driver.

Walker said: 'I think Damon will be a better driver than his father. Graham achieved his success on pure guts and determination. He was not a natural driver like the Stewarts and Mosses of his era. He did a lot of work in the transporter, spending one and a half hours mentally going over the circuit, and woe betide anyone who interrupted him. It was a real hard slog for him.

'He was a good driver, but I think Damon is more of a natural and he has come through the development stages so correctly. Graham did not start driving until he was 24. Damon has come right through from his motorcycling days, starting at the age of 10. He has done his full apprenticeship and for that reason is a very complete driver.

'Now he is learning from Alain Prost and there is no better teacher. Moss joined Mercedes-Benz as No 2 to Fangio so that he would learn. I don't think anyone could have told Graham too much. He spent just one season with me, in 1970, and had rows with his mechanics. He was an extravert and could be tough on people. Damon is completely different. He is quieter and he listens.

'I would be horrified if he wasn't kept on by Williams. He's done everything he could have done and he's jolly unlucky not to have won a race by now. Today you need intelligence and skill, and Damon has both.'

One possible reason for Williams delaying their decision could be the desire to consider the consequences of the changes to regulations for next season. Active suspension, traction control, four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes are to be outlawed and Hill's trump card was his testing experience with Williams' sophisticated technology.

His ability in a passive Formula One car is something of an unknown quantity.