The race brought up a big mix of emotions. At the first start was a reminder of the tragedy of motor racing, which later on in the race raised the question of whether this prompted Alain Prost's decission not to race next year. In the second race was a reminder that the races can quite easily be a procession, with very little racing, and also a reminder of how refuelling can spoil the races.
As the cars lined up on the grid, it seemed that the green flag man had forgotten what he had to do. The cars were neatly lined up, and he didn't appear. Many seconds later he appeared, and finally the lights could turn on. Could this have lead to the problems at this first start? The cars got away, and off went Frentzen, Katayama, Badoer and a Forti. Others were involved also. It was only on the replay that it became clear of the horror of the incident. The Tyrrell of Katayama and the Minardi of Badoer touched. The Tyrrell was on the right hand side of the track at the time. The car was launched into the air (similar to Patrese's incident here a few years back), but was then launched into the left hand side of the track, and into the wall. From here, the Tyrrell bounced off and across the track again to hit the right hand side of the track. All the time the car was on its side or upside down. It finally came to rest upside down on the right of the track (all relative to direction of track). Katayama was firmly belted into the car, and was still in it. The race was immediatley stopped - there was no waiting, as soon as the accident occured it was red flagged. Some lessons obviously have been learnt. Katayama was removed from the car unconcious, and taken to hospital. Later on in the afternoon it was announced that he was now concious and talking. He had no broken bones. The Tyrrell showed its enormous strength in the accident with no obvious damage to the monocoque, with the wheels, wings and so on coming off to dissipate the energy. The suspension also showed that it "failed" in the correct way, protecting the driver.
At the restart, Coulthard took the lead, with Schumacher taking second place, and Hill falling to third. Within 1 lap, Coulthard had taken a healthy 1.2 second lead from Schumacher. The top six drivers would remain in there positions for the majority of the race. Coulthard Schumacher Hill Berger Herbert Alesi
On lap 2, Coulthard set a fastest lap of 1m23.220s. By lap 3, Coulthard had a 2.688 second lead over Schumacher, who in turn was 0.7 seconds ahead of Hill. The Ferrari of Berger was losing around 2 seconds a lap to Hill, with Herbert and Alesi falling back at a similar rate as well from the driver in front. Positions on lap 3: Coulthard Schumacher Hill Berger Herbert Alesi Brundle Irvine Barrichello Hakkinen
On lap 7, Panis was given a 10 second stop-go penalty for a jump start. Lamy pulled into the pits and retired also from this lap. On lap 12, Panis spun out of the race after stopping for his 10 second penalty. As he was leaving that there was an obvious cloud of oily smoke pouring from the engine bay - could this have lead to his accident?
By lap 12, things were still very settled. The top six seemed quite happy to keep there station and not threaten to overtake. Coulthard Schumacher Hill Berger Herbert Alesi Brundle Irvine Barrichello Hakkinen Blundell Frentzen Boullion Salo Montermini Inoue Badoer Diniz
On lap 18, Schumacher came in for a 7 second pit stop. Hill took a 16.1 second stop. There was clearly a problem with this stop, and this lead to a new tactic in the Williams team. Williams were not happy, and called Charlie Whiting (FIA technical delegate) to their pit. On the same lap, Berger and Brundle also came in.
On lap 19, Coulthard came in for his stop, 10.6 seconds. Still rather tardy, but not as bad as the stop of Hill. Herbert also came in for an 8.2 second stop. On lap 20, Hakkinen joined the party and pitted also. Things had settled down again, with only Alesi, Irvine and Frentzen of the top runners not to have pitted. Coulthard Schumacher Alesi Hill Berger Irvine Frentzen Herbert Blundell Hakkinen
Alesi and Irvine later had stops, and positions resumed to normal. Coulthard Schumacher +5.810 Hill +23.273 Berger +38.592 Herbert +52.952 Alesi +1m01.647
On lap 34, Berger came in for a stop, with Schumacher in a lap later. This allowed Hill to move up to second. Williams were also ready for a stop - Coulthards. It was becoming clear that Hill would now only stop twice, rather than thrice, due to the problems at the first stop. This would prove decisive later on. On lap 36, Herbert came in for a 10.2 second stop, followed by Brundle also in. On lap 37, Coulthard came in for a 11.1 second stop, Badoer a 15.8 second stop. This allowed Hill into the lead. Schumacher was still down in third place. Hill made short work of the traffic, in a way rarely displayed this season. Whilst Hill was busy at the front, Schumacher was clearly not happy with third place, and started to make inroads into the second place of Coulthard.
Barrichello came in for a 9.6 second stop. By now, Coulthard was all over the gearbox of Hill. Lap 42: Hill Coulthard +0.534 Schumacher +4.427 Alesi +48.382 Berger +49.932 Herbert +1m04.780
Goodyear announced at this point that the tyres wear standing up well to the track, and that it would be possible to do a two stop race. Coulthard was really pushing the Williams of Hill, and finally Hill pits (11.5 seconds). Could this be his final stop? With this stop, Schumacher moved up to second, whilst Hill fell back to third. Lap 45: Coulthard Schumacher +3.895 Hill +27.891 Alesi +49.568 Berger (PIT) Herbert
Hakkinen's car had enough at this point, and retired from 12th. On lap 47, Blundell came in for his pit stop. Alesi, Diniz, and Frentzen pitted a lap later. On lap 49, Boullion came in for his stop. Montermini was now to have an extra stop for speeding in the pit lane. Lap 50: Coulthard Schumacher Hill Herbert Berger Alesi Brundle Irvine Frentzen Boullion Barrichello Blundell Salo Badoer Montermini Inoue Diniz
On lap 53, Coulthard came in for his third stop, and Schumacher came in also on the same lap. It was now Coulthard in the lead, with Hill second and Schumacher third.
On lap 55, it was announced that Alain Prost would not be racing next season. By now, Schumacher was bearing down on Hill. It started to look like the enforced pit-strategy was not going to pay off after all.
On lap 62, at the ridiculous 30mph chicane, Schumacher squeezed ahead of Hill who was struggling badly with tyre wear. And so it settled to the flag.
Coulthard Schumacher Hill Berger Alesi Frentzen Herbert Brundle Blundell Irvine Barrichello Boullion Salo Badoer Inoue Diniz Moreno
-- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport