British GP report

SILVERSTONE, Britain, July 13 (Reuter) - Canadian Jacques Villeneuve revived his challenge for the world drivers' champion- ship on Sunday with victory in an incident-filled British Grand Prix. His win, which secured the Williams...

SILVERSTONE, Britain, July 13 (Reuter) - Canadian Jacques Villeneuve revived his challenge for the world drivers' champion- ship on Sunday with victory in an incident-filled British Grand Prix. His win, which secured the Williams team their long-awaited 100th Formula One victory on the circuit where they claimed their first in 1979, cut championship leader German Michael Schumacher's lead to four points in the drivers' title battle after nine of this year's 17 races. Schumacher, who was forced to retire his Ferrari with me- chanical problems after leading, now has 47 points to Villeneuve's 43. The Canadian has a good chance of living up to his pre-season status as favourite for the drivers' title if he and Williams can maintain their form. "It was a very important victory, definitely, for all of us," said Villeneuve. "But I was worred after that pit-stop because I had lost so much time. After that I just had to push, push and push all the time. "I was lucky the tyres were very good for me and I could push so hard. It was good for me too to see Michael (Schumacher) stop because it is time they had some problems this year!" Villeneuve's win was his second in succession at Silver- stone, his fourth this season and the eighth of his career. It was also the seventh in succession at the British Grand Prix by a Renault-powered car and Williams' sixth in the last seven years. But Villeneuve, whose hopes appeared to have been wrecked when he suffered a near-catastrophic 33-second first pit stop after leading the opening 22 laps, was helped by the misfortunes of two chief rivals in a race of swinging fortunes for all the leading drivers. Both subsequent leaders, Schumacher and Finland's Mika Hakkinen, were forced to retire due to mechanical problems just when it seemed they were capable of claiming victory. For Hakki- nen, it was particularly cruel as he has never won a Formula One race in 88 attempts. Schumacher had opened up a 42-second lead before being forced out after his second pit-stop after 37 laps with what appeared to be a rear wheel bearing problem. Hakkinen led for eight laps near the end, holding off Villeneuve's challenge, before his McLaren's Mercedes-Benz engine blew. He threw his gloves into the crowd after banging his fists on his steering wheel in frustration. "Towards the end of the race, I blistered a tyre which allowed Villeneuve to catch me, but I had everything in control," said Hakkinen. "There was no way he could have got past me. "Then my engine went - it means I have really experienced every emotion this weekend." Schumacher, however, owed his opportunity to lead only to the loose front left wheel problem which upset Villeneuve's first pit-stop after he had led the opening 22 laps from pole position. It required 33.6 seconds to rectify before he could rejoin the race. When he eventually re-entered the fray, Villeneuve was seventh and had to fight his way back through the field, making the most of every opportunity, to win. The departures of Schumacher and Hakkinen followed the first lap retirement of Villeneuve's Williams team mate German Heinz- Harald Frentzen, who started at the back after he had stalled on the grid and forced an inititial re-start. It all combined to make it possible for the Benettons of Frenchman Jean Alesi and Austrian Alexander Wurz, driving in only his third race, to profit. Alesi finished second and Wurz a delighted, if unexpected, third. Briton David Coulthard was fourth in the second McLaren, Schumacher's younger brother 21-year-old Ralf fifth in a Jordan and world champion Damon Hill of Britain sixth for Arrows. For Hill, it was akin to a victory as he scored his first point of a troubled year in front of his home crowd after a weekend dominated by rumours of a rift between him and the Arrows team. "I have never been so happy to get just one point before," said Hill. "It feels like a victory to me."

SILVERSTONE, Britain, July 13 (Reuter) - World champion Damon Hill, beset by problems all season, said his sixth-place finish in Sunday's British Grand Prix felt as good as a victory. After a turbulent start to the year during which he had failed to score a point and finish in only two of the opening eight races, he could not hide his delight after climbing out of his Arrows car. "I have never been so happy just to get one point before," said Hill. "It feels like a victory to me. I feel fantastic about it and I feel like I have won something." The Briton, who joined Arrows this season after being re- leased by world champions Williams last year, had spent much of the race outside the top 10 after qualifying in 12th place. But he moved up the order as many of the front-runners retired and he was handed the final points-scoring position when Japanese Shinji Nakano, in a Prost, dropped out two laps from the chequered flag. "The crowd were absolutely superb. I think they knew the score and when Nakano's engine blew up I went past him and I was waving at them," said Hill. "I feel very emotional about it as everyone was waving and cheering, which was fantastic." Hill's move to Arrows this season had not brought him the kind of results he had become used to during his previous four seasons with Williams when he won 21 races and the 1996 world title. And after the build-up to the British Grand Prix had been dominated by off-track talk about his future with the team, Hill admitted the result was just what he and Arrows needed. "It is a great thing for the team," he said. "Everyone has been under pressure at Arrows and Yamaha and we are going to celebrate now. "Now is not a time to talk about the future. It is time now to celebrate with the team. I have got a point and we have shown everyone we are on the right track." Team boss Tom Walkinshaw said: "I am very pleased. It at least gives the team some foundation and gives us something to aim for. We just need to get some more points in the second half of the season."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Alexander Wurz , Shinji Nakano , Damon Hill , Tom Walkinshaw
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan