Motor Racing: Prost profits from Hill's cruel luck: Briton is forced to watch his team-mate take the first prize again after a second successive grand prix is snatched from his grasp

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The Independent Online
FATE teased, taunted and ultimately betrayed Damon Hill here yesterday in a manner extraordinary even by the standards of Formula One. Comfortably, as it seemed, cruising to his maiden success at this level, his rear left tyre capitulated barely six miles from the end of the German Grand Prix.

He was a helpless, forlorn passenger in the stricken Williams-Renault as his team-mate, Alain Prost, went through to collect his seventh win of the season and extend his world championship lead to an almost unassailable 27 points. Michael Schumacher, to the satisfaction of a 150,000 crowd, was second, in a Benetton-Ford, while Mark Blundell, in a Ligier-Renault, retrieved some consolation for Britain with a combative drive to third place, leaving Ayrton Senna, Riccardo Patrese and Gerhard Berger in his wake.

Prost and the rest, however, had conceded first place to Hill, the Englishman who might have made it in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a fortnight earlier. On that day his engine expired little more than 17 laps from the end. This time he reached the penultimate lap safely ahead of Prost. His Williams could not be sabotaged now, could it? Almost unbelievably, it could, and it was.

The car suddenly jerked, lost its momentum, and then rubber began to shred from the punctured tyre. Hill must have felt his heart shredding with it. He attempted to steer the Williams to the sanctuary of the pits, in the hope of salvaging something from the race. Not even that crumb was afforded him. He spun in the pit lane and solemnly completed the journey on foot. Hill and Prost had decided to run the full race distance on one set of tyres and there was no evidence to suggest they had miscalculated. The tyre suppliers, Goodyear, believe Hill picked up a piece of debris, which caused the damage.

'This is a million times worse than Silverstone,' Hill said. 'The job was done. It was finished. I did not deserve that. At Silverstone there was still some racing to be done. It's doubly rough when you lose two races like this.

'I had no warning at all and it is pretty difficult to win a race on three wheels. It is also weird to drive a car like that. I was up to fourth gear when I felt it go and probably doing around 130mph before I backed off.'

It was a rear left tyre failure which cost another Briton and another Williams driver, Nigel Mansell, the championship in 1986. Hill could be excused for believing he has the Mansell curse. Eventually, of course, it all came good for the man now exiled in America, and, from the depths of despair, Hill summoned words of defiance.

'If I was determined before, I am hree times more determined to win a race now. It's no satisfaction leading all the way and not winning. The only satisfaction is going across the line first. You just have to keep hammering away, and not let it get you down. It's got to come if you don't give up,' he said.

Hill demonstrated his determination here from the grid, taking advantage of another sluggish start by Prost. Schumacher followed Hill into the first corner, leaving Prost to his latest dice with Senna. Prost refused to be bullied and Senna had his comeuppance, spinning at a chicane and finding himself relegated to the back of the field.

Prost then drove through a chicane, a move which was to result in a 10-second stop and go penalty. The Frenchman later said: 'It is a scandal. I am very upset. I deliberately went straight on because in my mirrors I saw Martin Brundle spinning behind me and he would have hit me. I was not seeking an unfair advantage. I think they did this to make it more interesting, and that is not correct.'

Penalties for Prost, Brundle and Aguri Suzuki were announced after Prost had taken the lead from Hill and appeared to be in command. From that moment he was driving for points rather than victory. Brundle was equally annoyed, arguing that as his Ligier was spinning, he could not avoid going straight on at the chicane. He lost more time at a misjudged pit-stop and finished a disgruntled eighth.

Blundell had a more productive day, defying the assaults of Berger and the menace of Senna. Not that the Englishman was entirely happy. He explained: 'I'm upset with Berger because he was weaving at 200mph and at one point I had to go on the grass. That's not fun. I'm going to have a word with him.' However, Blundell later added: 'It was a good result for me and I hope it is the start of a good run.'

The last word should have gone to Hill, as Prost conceded: 'In a way I thought I deserved to win because I was quicker in the early part, but in the end Damon deserved it. I am sure he will win a race soon. I hope so.

'I thought the best I could do was finish second. I was catching Damon but not easily. He was unlucky again today, but I think he is strong enough to make another big challenge.'

Johnny Herbert was 10th in a Lotus-Ford, and the record books will show Derek Warwick was 17th in a Footwork-Mugen. Those records will not, however, tell the story of an heroic performance by Warwick, who scrambled from his overturned car in a wet morning warm-up session.

His vision obscured by spray, he ran into Luca Badoer's Lola-Ferrari at 140mph, ripping away both right wheels. He guided the Footwork towards the guardrail in the hope of containing its pace but it continued on its crazy course like a demented bronco and flipped as it reached the gravel trap.

After a hospital check, he decided to race. And this almost two years to the day after his younger brother, Paul, was killed in a British Formula 3000 crash at Oulton Park.

GERMAN GRAND PRIX (Hockenheim, 45 laps 306.675km): 1 A Prost (Fr) Williams-Renault 1hr 18min 40.885sec (ave speed 233.861kph); 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford +16.664sec; 3 M Blundell (GB) Ligier-Renault +59.349; 4 A Senna (Bra) McLaren-Ford +1min 08.229sec; 5 R Patrese (It) Benetton-Ford +1:31.516; 6 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari +1:34.754; 7 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari +1:35.841; 8 M Brundle (GB) Ligier-Renault +1 lap; 9 K Wendlinger (Aut) Sauber +1; 10 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford +1; 11 C Fittiapldi (Bra) Minardi-Ford +1; 12 P Alliot (Fr) Larrousse-Lamborghini +1; 13 T Boutsen (Bel) Jordan-Hart +1; 14 P Martini (It) Minardi- Ford +1; 15 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault +2; 16 M Alboreto (It) Lola BMS-Ferrari +2; 17 D Warwick (GB) Footwork-Mugen Honda +3. Did not finish (not classified): 18 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart 34 laps completed; 19 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha 28; 20 J J Lehto (Fin) Sauber 22; 21 A Zanardi (It) Lotus-Ford 19; 22 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork-Mugen Honda 9; 23 M Andretti (US) McLaren-Ford 4; 24 L Badoer (It) Lola BMS-Ferrari 4; 25 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Yamaha 1. Did not start (failed to complete one lap): 26 E Comas (Fr) Larrousse-Lamborghini. Fastest lap: Schumacher, lap 40, 1:41.859 (240.862kph).

WORLD DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (after 10 rounds): 1 Prost 77pts; 2 Senna 50; 3 Schumacher 36; 4 Hill 28; 5 Patrese 11; 6 Blundell 10; 7= Brundle, Herbert 9; 9 Berger 6; 10= Lehto, Fittipaldi 5; 12 Alesi 4; 13 Andretti 3; 14= Alliot, F Barbazza (It) 2; 16= Zanardi, Wendlinger, Warwick, 1.

CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP: 1 Williams 105pts; 2 McLaren 53; 3 Benetton 47; 4 Ligier 19; 5= Lotus, Ferrari 10; 7 Minardi 7; 8 Sauber 6; 9 Larrousse 2; 10 Footwork 1.

(Photograph omitted)

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