Sunday's race was less complicated than the other two victories. On th e other hand it was perhaps a more typical grand prix

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Before the start of the Argentinian Grand Prix, I really felt that the odds were against me winning my third race in succession this season. The competition was closer than ever before. Under normal circumstances, I could cope with that, but a severe stomach upset meant I was not exactly full of energy - or anything else, come to that - and ready for a 72-lap race.

I had not managed to get any nutrition into me during the previous two days. Throughout Saturday night, I was visiting the loo every couple of hours, so I didn't have much sleep. I felt sure I was going to be pretty uncomfortable at some stage on Sunday afternoon but, fortunately, everything seemed to abate just in time. Not only did I reach the finish without any major problems, the Rothmans-Williams-Renault team enjoyed another one-two as Jacques Villeneuve followed me home.

The necessary concentration had taken my mind off any personal discomfort thanks to having plenty to think about, more or less from start to finish. With Michael Schumacher sharing the front row of the grid, my first job would be to judge just how fast the Ferrari could go. Michael was able to put pressure on me during the early stages of the race, so I had to pace myself quite carefully and yet push as hard as I could. At first, I was looking in my mirror to see what Schumacher was doing, but then I decided to concentrate solely on pulling out a lead. By 20 laps I had built up an advantage of several seconds and it seemed I had the measure of the Ferrari.

The gap reduced to four seconds after my first refuelling stop, so we lost a little bit of time in the pits.I was starting to push again when the safety car suddenly appeared and we had to form up behind it. You can imagine my thoughts because all the hard work had been more or less in vain. Michael would be right on my tail.

There was good reason for the appearance of the safety car; Badoer's Forti had overturned and, not long after, a Ligier caught fire in a big way. Both drivers were OK but, in the meantime, I was trying to work out how best to deal with the restart now that the field was stacked up behind me.

Once the safety car pulled into the pit lane, the timing would be critical since you are not allowed to overtake until reaching the start and finish line which, in this case, was some distance from the pit entrance. I have to say that the safety car was being driven very slowly, which did nothing for tyre temperatures and pressures, both of which are vital when it comes to the performance of the car. This safety car was making such a bad job of it that I had to put my foot on the clutch most of the time, or put the car in neutral and coast along behind him.

To complicate matters even further, I no longer had any radio communication. I couldn't hear the pits but they could hear me. In fact, they could hear me fuming, with a few choice words. Everyone was having a go at getting through and, at one point an engineer was spending a lot of time trying to communicate. I was wishing he would stop talking because I couldn't work out what was being said and I couldn't say anything while he was talking. In fact, in an effort to get him to shut up, I even tried to signal with my hands in case there were pictures coming from the on-board camera. And, of course, all the time I was trying to prepare myself for the rolling restart.

I got the jump on Schumacher and began to ease out a lead once more. The next problem was obviously going to be receiving the call for my second pit stop, but, by relying on the pit board, I came in at the right moment and this time I got away quickly.

When Schumacher dropped out, the pit signals said that Jean Alesi was in second place. And he was flying. The Benetton-Renault started to close the gap and I had to pull out all the stops. That was about the only time when I had to really drive close to the limit. I was anxious to stay clear of Alesi because I knew he would go hell for leather at the slightest sniff of victory. Fortunately, he made a very slow pit stop a few laps later.

When his team-mate, Gerhard Berger, retired I had a sufficient cushion over Jacques Villeneuve to maintain my lead until the finish. That made it four straight victories - if you include the last round of the 1995 championship. It is the longest winning streak I've ever had; it's a brilliant way to start the season.

The three wins I've had in 1996 could not have been more different. Last Sunday's race was less complicated than the other two. On the other hand, it was perhaps a more typical grand prix, all about pressure, close competition and less variables - apart from the safety car.

The one constant, however, has been the advantage of winning pole position, something I didn't do in Melbourne but which I have made sure of ever since. In Argentina, that was quite a pressure moment; I was only fourth fastest, there were just three minutes to go and about 17 cars on the track. On such a tight circuit as Buenos Aires, I simply had to get pole position, otherwise winning the race would have been almost out of the question.

Everything may have gone according to plan last weekend but everyone is only too aware that just a few hiccups can see your advantage vaporise into nothing. On the other hand, while I'm on this winning streak, I really want to pull off another win in Germany in three weeks' time.

After the race had finished I had time to think about going home again after the South American trip; time to realise that, thanks to my fitness, I had made the rostrum and received the trophy from President Carlos Menem. I can honestly say that I'd never felt better.

Copyright Damon Hill Racing

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