. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Williams Gives Walking Papers to Hill

LONDON -- World championship-leading Briton Damon Hill will leave the Williams motor racing team at the end of this season, Williams confirmed Sunday.

Team owner Frank Williams said in a brief statement: "I can confirm that the Williams-Renault team will not be using Damon Hill's services in 1997. His replacement will be made known in due course."

Hill's manager and lawyer Michael Breen told a news conference in London the Williams team had ended contract discussions with the 35-year-old Englishman abruptly last Wednesday.

Breen said both he and Hill were surprised and disappointed by the news.

Sources in Germany and Britain said Saturday and again Sunday that Hill's seat with the championship-winning team had already been filled for next season by rising German star Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Frentzen, currently with Sauber, has not won a Grand Prix but is believed to be a driver of potential who is admired by many Germans. It is thought that Williams is keen to move to German BMW engines in 1998, when its current deal with Renault ends.

The news that Hill was effectively being dumped by Williams in the season when he is expected to win his first drivers' championship stunned many observers, but left hardened veterans in Formula One recalling the Williams teams' handling of many similar situations in the past.

In 1992, Briton Nigel Mansell secured the drivers' championship before being replaced in the team by Frenchman Alain Prost.

Prost himself won the title in 1993, only to find he was being replaced the following season by Brazilian Ayrton Senna.

Breen pointed to Hill's excellent record with Williams, which has included 20 Grand Prix victories, 19 fastest laps and 18 pole positions. "Those facts speak for themselves, and I am sure that many team owners will be interested in taking him on," said Breen.

Hill now looks likely to move to the Peugeot-powered Jordan team on a two-year contract, but may also interest newcomers Stewart Grand Prix, owned by his father's old friend Jackie Stewart.

Breen said Hill was as disappointed for the team as he was for himself, as they had been together for six years and he wanted to defend his title in a Williams with a No. 1 on the nose of his car.

"On Wednesday, Frank called to withdraw from discussing Damon's contract any further, giving no reason for his decision," Breen said.

He gave the clear impression that he believed there were no financial or other problems in his dealings with Williams and that the only obstacle had been that the team owner had already committed himself to another driver.