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Damon not to blame for Hockenheim?

WILLIAMS driver Damon Hill may not have been at fault in his crash at the German Grand Prix. Damon spun out of the race at the start of the second lap in what looked like a simple mistake by Hill. He was unable to explain how the accident had happened. A thorough investigation of the car when it arrived back at the Williams factory in England revealed that the accident might have been caused by the left-hand driveshaft, which showed signs of unusual wear. "It is not beyond reasonable doubt that this could well have contributed to the spin," said Williams technical director Patrick Head.

A number of F1 observers have dismissed this as an attempt to bolster Hill's drooping morale, but it should be said that Hill is usually happy to admit to a mistake - even a bad one - and he did not do this in Germany. He remains remarkably buoyant and confident despite the setbacks in Britain and Germany and has always been a fighter.

Whether it was caused by mechanical failure or driver error, the accident in Germany was still very bad news for Williams, because the team's reliability record this year has been - at best - patchy. Benetton's finishing rate in the nine races (18 starts) to date has been 72%, while the Williams-Renaults have managed only a 55% finishing rate.

Benetton's reasons for retirement have ALL been due to accidents (Michael Schumacher in Imola and Britain - although he claimed a mechanical failure in the San Marino GP - and Johnny Herbert in Brazil, Canada and France). The only glitch for Benetton was in Canada where Schumacher would have won but for the electronic problem which dropped him to fifth. In other words, Benetton's reliability rate has been 100% this season.

Williams, on the other hand, has had two accidents (Hill in Britain and Coulthard in Canada), but the other six non-finishes have all been caused by mechanical trouble (Hill in Brazil, Canada and now Germany and Coulthard in Argentina, Spain and Monte Carlo) which is only a 66% reliability rate.

It is interesting to note that Williams has scored an average of 5.10 points per finish, but Benetton has only managed 4.83 points, which means that if Williams had been able to get its reliability together and stay on the track, the team would be ahead in the World Championship.

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