Villeneuve eclipses sliding Hill in testing

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

Damon Hill slid off the Estoril track for the second day running during testing in Portugal yesterday, as his Williams-Renault team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, preparing for his first season in Formula One, posted the week's fastest time.

The Williams went off the track as Hill attempted to negotiate the tricky S-bend of the 2.709-mile circuit during a dry morning session. As in his spin-off on Tuesday, the British driver was unhurt. His car was towed into the pits with scuffed front tyres, while Villeneuve went on to record the fastest lap in 1min 21.14sec. Hill was second fastest with 1:21.17.

Hill is not the only one having trouble staying on the track. Michael Schumacher, who denied Hill the world championship last season, also escaped injury when his Ferrari bounced off a guard rail during testing at Fiorano, Italy, on Tuesday.

The four-times world champion Alain Prost climbed into the cockpit of a Formula One car again to take the McLaren-Mercedes 14 times around the circuit, clocking a fastest time of 1:23.24. Prost, known as "the professor" for his diligent attention to detail and race tactics, is currently testing for McLaren as technical advisor.

He joined up with new McLaren driver, David Coulthard, last week to test new components on last year's chassis. Coulthard's Finnish team-mate, Mika Hakkinen, is still recovering from an accident in Adelaide last season in which he fractured his skull.

The McLaren management confirmed that Prost will not be a "ghost driver" in the championship, but will only help in the technical development and testing of the new car.

The two teams, testing before the Formula One season begins in March, are due to be joined by Jordan-Peugeot this week.