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F1 NEWS 

Is the end drawing closer for Hill?

Damon Hill has given fresh hints that he is edging closer to retirement after he failed to qualify for the French Grand Prix.

The 38-year-old ex-champion had a torrid time in the hour long, rain-lashed, qualifying session and it is looking increasingly likely he could leave the sport after the British Grand Prix in a fortnight's time.

First his car caught fire in the pitlane while it rained and then he spun while out in the spare.

Even though he was not fast enough to qualify within the 107 per cent rule (with four other drivers) the chances are the organisers will quote the exceptional circumstances, as they have with other drivers in the past, and allow him to start.

Afterwards a dejected Hill said, 'I do not want to be in a position where I am damaging Eddie's chances and I'd have to say on today's evidence I am not helping.

'I only want to race if I feel I can deliver and frankly I don't feel like I am delivering.

'I am not making any definite announcement but anything is possible. If I am allowed to race tomorrow I'll race.

'Today shows the difficulties I have been going through and why I have decided to retire.'

He set the 18th quickest time but because he was slower than 107 per cent of the pole time he should not, in theory, be allowed to start the race.

But in the past the organisers have quoted exceptional circumstances such as rain and allowed the driver to start.

He was a tenth slower than Eddie Irvine, 17th, who spun into the sand but made the grid.

Behind Hill in the same position are the two Fondmetal and two Arrows drivers.

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