Motor racing: Walkinshaw moves to calm Hill's frustration

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The Independent Online
Contrasting moods, contrasting aspirations. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, suddenly a Formula One race winner and suddenly relaxed and oozing confidence in anticipation of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

Damon Hill, the man he replaced at Williams-Renault, has scant hope of success here, while his team, Arrows- Yamaha, are anxiously quelling any suggestion of a rift.

Hill's fourth fruitless race at Imola 12 days ago caused him to demand the team "get their act together" and reiterate his determination to secure a competitive car for next year, be it at Arrows or elsewhere.

Tom Walkinshaw, the Arrows supremo, has already taken steps to improve matters by opening negotiations for a different engine partner and employing the renowned designer John Barnard to create a more competitive car. Now Walkinshaw offers words of comfort, too.

He said: "We knew all along that it wouldn't happen overnight and Damon knew that. We've talked about the situation with Damon and he understands. We have no problem with Damon and he knows we're all determined to get things right. We're just as angry and frustrated as he is. We don't like it either when he starts at the back. But if Damon wasn't disappointed, I would be disappointed in him.

"There is always a danger he will go at the end of the season, but it's too early to talk about that. He doesn't need me to tell him to keep calm. He has to keep focused. If the circumstances are right, it's still possible for him to win a race this year."

Frentzen, who held off Michael Schumacher's Ferrari to register his maiden Formula One victory at Imola, senses the opportunity to challenge his team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, for the championship and expects the competition to be evident here this weekend.

"After the win I am more relaxed and confident, and can concentrate on my job and enjoy the racing," the German said. "Jacques has done a great development job and got stronger and stronger, a lot stronger than last year. For him this race is a break. He had not such a good race last year and has worked hard for this. Michael will also be very strong in qualifying so I think it will be exciting."

Frentzen, who likens racing here to "bobsleighing in a tunnel", was also promised a strong challenge from Schumacher by Ferrari's team director, Jean Todt.

"I believe we will be quite competitive," Todt said. "Michael is very strong and was frustrated after crashing so early in the race last year. Williams are still better than us, especially in qualifying, but the championship is open and we hope to be at their level by the middle of the season."

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