Motor racing: Williams sharpen up for title challenge

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

DERICK ALLSOP

They failed to sign him, now the Williams team think this season they have their best chance to beat Michael Schumacher and claim the Formula One championship.

Frank Williams pledged yesterday a better prepared and improved effort by his team, and come the opening race, in Melbourne on 10 March, the Williams-Renault chief said his engineers and mechanics should have sharpened their act and Hill should be similarly primed, physically and psychologically to make a better fist of their championship challenge than they did last season, when they were soundly beaten by Schumacher and Benetton-Renault.

The team are anxious to make up time at pit stops and Williams also believes time has been lost overtaking. He is urging Hill to be more positive in this area.

Schumacher is now with Ferrari after Williams, as their engineering director Patrick Head confirmed, had made inquiries last year about Schumacher's availability, but were priced out of contention.

Williams said Hill, second in the championship in consecutive years, "has a very good chance of the championship this time. But he needs to sort out his overtaking. He has to give no quarter and pass in a way that says, 'don't mess with me.' "

Hill, conscious of Schumacher's phenomenal fitness, has taken on the services of an Austrian physiotherapist/coach to upgrade his physical condition. "He is taking his preparations very seriously indeed," Williams said.

Williams signed the French-Canadian Jacques Villeneuve and expect him to win races, but feel Hill is a better championship bet. The threat to him, they think, may come from Benetton's Frenchman Jean Alesi.

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