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Hill discounts column failure possibility

4/21/2004

LONDON -- Ayrton Senna's death at the San
Marino Grand Prix 10 years ago was caused by the Brazilian
making a fatal mistake, according to former Williams teammate
Damon Hill.

"I have listened and read endless theories about why, or
how, he could have crashed on such a 'simple' corner like
Tamburello," the Briton, world champion in 1996, wrote in the
Times newspaper on Tuesday.

"No one other than Ayrton Senna and me know what it was like
to drive that car, through that corner, in that race, on that
day, on cold tires.

"Ultimately we will never know what Ayrton was thinking, or
what really happened. I am convinced that he made a mistake, but
many people will never believe he could."

Hill said the three-time world champion, whose death
reverberated around the world and will be commemorated this
weekend when Imola hosts what could be the last San Marino Grand
Prix, was a great driver who pushed to the limit and beyond.

The cause of Senna's accident remains open to conjecture and
an Italian court last month decided to reopen a manslaughter
trial.

Team boss Frank Williams, technical director Patrick Head
and former designer Adrian Newey, now with McLaren, face a new
hearing after being cleared of manslaughter charges at a trial
in Bologna in 1997.

There has been considerable speculation over the years as to
whether the modified steering column on Senna's Williams had
snapped, causing him to drive helplessly into a concrete wall.

Hill rejected the suggestion, saying the car had
power-steering but he had driven the whole race with his turned
off as a precaution after Senna's crash.

"In fact, the column could easily withstand the considerably
increased loading for the whole race distance," he said.

"It is inconceivable to me that Ayrton's column could have
broken with the power steering working normally, which I believe
it was from the data subsequently retrieved from his car."

Hill also considered whether the race, won by Germany's
future world champion Michael Schumacher in a Benetton, should
have been canceled.

"I thought for a long time that the blame lay at the feet of
those who make the rules," he wrote. "But now I see it as it is.
It is sport. It is entertainment.

"You don't have to do it. Ayrton did not have to do it. He
had a choice on that Sunday and, incredibly sadly, he made the
wrong one."