MAY 19, 1997

Hill's big crash

DAMON HILL's patience with the Arrows team must be wearing thin.

DAMON HILL's patience with the Arrows team must be wearing thin. The World Champion has had a frustrating season and last week at Magny-Cours he suffered a rear suspension failure in the long curling Estoril Corner and went off sideways at high speed into the barriers. The car was badly damaged but Hill was unhurt.

At the same test the Leafield team tried the long-awaited new version of the Yamaha V10 engine. After the test Hill commented that "the new engine hasn't shown too much promise so we are going to be using the same engine for the rest of the season."

This will probably be the final nail in the coffin of Yamaha's F1 program. Arrows team boss Tom Walkinshaw makes no secret of the fact that he is flat out trying to reach agreement to run the Mugen Honda V10 engines next year. He has signed up John Barnard and is in the process of putting together a strong team of engineers. The final piece in the jigsaw to keep Hill is to land the Mugen Honda engine supply deal in 1998.

If he gets the Japanese engines Tom should be able to convince Hill to stay but there is serious rivalry for the Mugens from Jordan. If Eddie Jordan gets the Japanese engines Hill will almost certainly put himself on the market.

Several teams have already said that they are interested in running Damon in 1998, notably McLaren, Benetton, Prost and Jordan. McLaren cannot convince Michael Schumacher to leave Ferrari and Hill would be the best of rest; Benetton is struggling and could use Hill's experience and prestige to put the team back on the rails; Prost wants a star name and Jordan would like to make up for having missed Hill last autumn.

At the moment, however, Damon continues to say that he is not thinking about the future and concentrating on building up Arrows. Walkinshaw knows that he must get a competitive engine - either the Mugen Honda or a Mecachrome V10 - and he must do it quickly if he is going to hang on to Hill.