Byline: By Oliver Holt
FROM Damon Hill's darkest hour, rays of light are beginning to emerge. His luck may have deserted him in the German grand prix on Sunday, but his admirers have not and yesterday, Martin Brundle, the man Hill beat to the coveted Williams drive at the end of last season, urged the team's owner, Frank Williams, to hand the 32-year-old Londoner a driver's berth again for next year.
Hill was more than 13sec ahead of his team-mate, Alain Prost, the world championship leader, when his rear left tyre burst on the penultimate lap at the Hockenheimring and robbed him of his first Formula One victory. Given that engine failure had
forced him to retire from the British grand prix just a fortnight earlier, when he was also leading, the unwanted twist was particularly hard to bear.
However, in both races Hill has shown growing maturity and style. His ability to win a race is now beyond dispute and although Williams said before Silverstone that he had not yet decided whether to retain him next year, Hill's position is getting stronger.
``He has done a better job than anyone expected,'' Brundle, whose eighth position in Germany in his Ligier did not do justice to his impressive performance, said. ``Unless Williams can afford or otherwise manage to bring on board a second megastar beside Prost, I do not see why there should be any change there.''
Williams is a long-time admirer of Ferrari's French driver, Jean Alesi, and has been consistently linked with him, but Alesi has signed a new contract and the only threat to his position would be if Ayrton Senna's tentative talks with the Italian team became more serious.
Hill, who has also grown visibly in confidence and poise off the track of late, has always maintained he is concentrating purely on the current season and, encouragingly for the Briton, Prost offered a hint yesterday that his team-mate's chances of winning races will improve as the season progresses and the Frenchman nears his goal of a fourth drivers' world championship.
``My lead of 27 points is a good margin,'' Prost said. ``You never know what can happen in Formula One, but, in the latter stages of the season, I can afford to think more about just accumulating points rather than going flat out for victory. That should be enough.''
Copyright (C) The Times, 1993