Motor Racing: Schumacher demonstrates supremacy: German ace takes chequered flag for fifth time this season as Hill and Coulthard tangle in Williams duel

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MICHAEL SCHUMACHER resumed his imperious march towards the Formula One World Championship with a flawless victory in the Canadian Grand Prix here yesterday.

All the jostling and jousting was in the wake of the Benetton-Ford driver, Damon Hill, who was a convincing second in his Williams-Renault, ahead of Ferrari's Jean Alesi. Gerhard Berger, in the other Ferrari, was fourth, and the 23-year-old Scot, David Coulthard, in only his second grand prix, a fine fifth in the second Williams.

Schumacher has five wins and that remarkable second place in Spain, jammed in fifth gear, from the first six races of the season, a standard of excellence rewarding him with a 32-point lead over Hill.

There were no problems for the 25-year-old German in this race, no such complications to challenge his class and authority. He held the advantage of pole position into the first corner and made the rest of the race his own. It seems only injury might threaten his relentless pursuit of the crown. Not even the part- time return of Nigel Mansell - still to be confirmed by Williams - is likely to sabotage his campaign.

Schumacher has taken hold of this championship the way Mansell did two years ago, the way Alain Prost used to, the way Ayrton Senna used to. Senna beat Schumacher to pole in their all-too-brief encounters earlier this season, yet could not contain him in their races.

Hill produced a splendid and consistent performance to justify second place, and that is as much as he and his team can frankly hope for. Aided by the continuing struggles of Benetton's second driver, J J Lehto, Williams remain in contention for the constructors' championship. Lehto finished sixth to take one point.

Alesi and Berger followed Schumacher into the first corner, while Hill lost the first-lap dash to his partner, the unruffled Coulthard. It was the prelude to a thrilling duel between the team-mates, which doubtless exasperated Hill and sent apprehension coursing through the Williams camp. As Schumacher built up his lead - 1.7sec after one lap, 2.8 on the second, 3.7 on the third, 4.5 on the fourth - Hill contemplated ways of finding a way past his redoubtable colleague. Hill attacked at the hairpin only for Coulthard to retaliate, much, no doubt, to the amusement of Berger, just ahead of them.

On the ninth lap, however, Hill went by Coulthard, who offered no resistance. It appeared Coulthard encountered occasional problems in the early phase of the race and he also had to give way to Rubens Barrichello, in a Jordan-Hart.

Hill, having disposed of the unexpected challenge from his partner, closed up on Berger and found himself locked in another tantalising struggle. The Austrian constantly checked his mirrors, left and right, in his determination to hold off the Williams. But on the 15th lap Hill overtook Berger and set his sights on the other Ferrari, nine seconds ahead.

In the event, he was spared the task of taking on Alesi by the flurry of pit-stops and the podium positions were effectively cast in stone. The main concern for Schumacher might have been the elements. As we were warned, the skies darkened and the shower came. Distant lightning provided still more ominous signs. Schumacher, at that stage, had not made his pit-stop and, to his relief, the rains cleared, the sun reappeared and he was able to stop for slick tyres and complete his passage to victory, almost 40 seconds clear of Hill.

Asked about confronting Mansell in the French Grand Prix, on 3 July, Schumacher said: 'We like more competition, don't we, Damon? I look forward to it. That's what we are here for, to fight, to put on a show. And I'm sure it will be more difficult with Nigel here.'

Hill could not hide his disapproval of Coulthard's early resistance. 'I'll have a word with him,' he said. 'I lost valuable time. I understand that there's no love lost between team-mates - that's the nature of Formula One, but it is a team effort.'

Coulthard responded: 'I felt I was entitled to race and that I wasn't holding up Damon. I'd got into the corner before him and I'm disappointed if he said that. I was having problems in the early part of the race because my foot went numb but I let Damon through when the team ordered me to.'

Johnny Herbert doggedly chased the leading pack in his Lotus-Mugen, finishing eighth. Mark Blundell was 10th in a Tyrrell-Yamaha. Martin Brundle retired his McLaren-Peugeot at the end of lap four with electrical problems and Eddie Irvine parked his Jordan- Hart in the pit wall after 40 laps.


CANADIAN GRAND PRIX (305.67km, 190.04 miles, 69 laps): 1 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton- Ford 1hr 44 min 31.887sec (ave speed 176.243kph, 109.515mph); 2 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault +39.660sec behind; 3 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari +1:13.388sec; 4 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari +1:15.609sec; 5 D Coulthard (GB) Williams-

Renault +1 lap; 6 J J Lehto (Fin) Benetton-Ford +1; 7 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart +1; 8 J Herbert (GB)

Lotus-Mugen Honda +1; 9 P Martini (It) Minardi- Ford +1; 10 M Blundell (GB) Tyrrell-Yamaha +1; 11 M Alboreto (It) Minardi-Ford +2; 12 O Panis (Fr) Ligier-Renault +2; 13 E Bernard (Fr) Ligier-Renault +3; 14 D Brabham (Aus) Simtek-Ford +4; 15 A Zanardi (It) Lotus-Mugen Honda +6.

Did not finish (not classified): 17 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Peugeot 61 laps completed; 18 O Beretta (Fr) Larrousse-Ford 57; 19 G Morbidelli (It) Footwork-Ford 50; 20 B Gachot (Bel) Pacific-Ilmor 47; 21 E Comas (Fr) Larrousse-Ford 45; 22 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha 44; 23 E Irvine (GB) Jordan- Hart 40; 24 A de Cesaris (It) Sauber-Mercedes 24; 25 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Sauber-Mercedes 5; 26 M Brundle (GB) McLaren-Peugeot 3. Fastest lap: Schumacher 1min 28.927sec (180.147kph, 111.941mph). Disqualified: C Fittipaldi (Bra) Footwork-Ford.

World Drivers' Championship standings (after five rounds): 1 Schumacher 56pts; 2 Hill 23; 3= Berger 13, Alesi 13; 5 Barrichello 7; 6= Larini 6, Brundle 6; 8= Hakkinen 4, Katayama 4, K Wendlinger (Aut) 4, Blundell 4; 12= Fittipaldi 3, de Cesaris 3; 14= Frentzen 2, Martini 2, Coulthard 2; 17= Comas 1, Alboreto 1, Irvine 1.

Constructors' standings: 1 Benetton 56pts; 2 Ferrari 32; 3 Williams 25 4 Jordan 11; 5 McLaren 10; 6 Tyrrell 8; 7 Sauber 6; 8= Footwork 3, Minardi 3; 10 Larrousse 1, Minardi 1.

(Photograph omitted)