Motor Racing: Stewart points Hill towards retirement

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The Independent Online
AS DAMON HILL arrived for duty at the British Grand Prix yesterday, trailing more clouds of confusion, it was left to another former champion to give him clear direction. Jackie Stewart was unequivocal in telling the Jordan Mugen driver that he should retire.

Hill maintained there would be "no clarification" about his future until after Sunday's race, ensuring debate and rumour would rage on through the weekend. The general view is that Jordan want this to be his farewell appearance but that he wishes to keep his options open.

Hill indicated after a miserable French Grand Prix 12 days ago that he had had enough. Eddie Jordan put Jos Verstappen in the car to test last week and it seemed that was that, but then it was announced Hill would be racing at Silverstone after all. He was expected to throw fresh light on the situation at a press conference yesterday but that was cancelled.

Stewart, now principal of the Ford-owned team, urged Hill to be more decisive. The Scotsman said: "I spoke to Damon at Magny-Cours and he thought he was retiring. Last Friday, at the test here, I didn't get that impression. He said that just when he thought he was retiring, the car came good.

"But you can't be a little bit pregnant, either you are or you aren't. And either you are retiring or you aren't. I think it's time for him to retire. He's 38 and clearly getting more aggravation than satisfaction.

"At 38 he has a wonderful opportunity for something new, he is in a position to find new opportunities. We all have to retire. The question is how you do it and how comfortable you are about staying retired."

Hill, it would appear, is far from comfortable with that prospect, much as he has been ill at ease in the car this season. He has only three points, while his Jordan team-mate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, has 23 - 10 of them earned with victory in France - and stands fourth in the championship.

Hill eventually shared a few of his thoughts yesterday, saying he was happier with the performance of the car, yet he declined to enter into discussion about his intentions or wishes beyond this race.

"All I'd like to say is that I'm pleased to be competing in the British Grand Prix. My one wish is to achieve the best result I've had all year and I want to concentrate solely on that. There will be no clarification about my future until after Sunday's race.

"I have to concentrate on this race and allow nothing else to enter my mind. It will be a relief to put my ear-plugs in and get on with the job. I'm doing something I enjoy and I'm looking forward to it.

"I've read a bit of stuff about me and my future, a lot of it opinion- based without enough facts. I'm sorry for that but I cannot give any more details. I want to do a good job for Eddie, all the team, and all the fans at Silverstone, who are always here to support all the British drivers."

Hill tested for two days last week and was quick, much to the bemusement of his team. "I was genuinely excited at the test," he said. "I felt more positive in the car than I had all year. I hope that translates into the race performance.

"The French Grand Prix was a big disappointment. I was more determined after the set-back. In a situation like that you can give up and throw in the towel, but that is not the right way. I'm on my toes. It helps a lot if you feel at one with the car."

The problem for Jordan remains replacing Hill. "Do not underestimate us," said the man who introduced Michael Schumacher to Formula One.

Frentzen said: "I think Damon should continue. It will be difficult to find someone better and he could turn it around at any time."