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Villeneuve and Hill at BAR

THERE were stories at Silverstone suggesting that British American Racing is in the process of trying to sign up World╩Champions Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill to be its drivers for next season. The Villeneuve deal is believed to be virtually done although Villeneuve said this weekend that such a move would be "a big risk".

Hill may be more difficult to sign up as Benson & Hedges want to retain a star name for the Jordan team. The negotiations become complicated because in markets outside Europe and America, British American Tobacco actually sells Benson &╩Hedges cigarettes. This does not mean that B&H and BAT will not be fighting over Hill as the Jordan deal is funded entirely by B&H's European parent company Gallaher Tobacco. If Damon is fortunate he may be able to bump up his price by playing one company against the other.

BAR boss Craig Pollock was full of praise for Hill during the weekend. "He has a huge amount of talent, and I think he is totally underestimated in Formula 1," he said. "He is a World Champion who has been a little bit forgotten by the British, and that should not be, because he is a great champion."

Pollock says that he needs drivers with experience to push the project along so Hill and Villeneuve would both fit the bill. Hill has been a little disappointed this year with the Jordan-Mugen Honda combination and is hoping that Honda will decide to back Jordan rather than do its own team. "There is talk that they will build their own car," Damon said this weekend, "but I would like to see them come back in with Jordan and provide us with the engine we know they are capable of building."

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