The first start was aborted when Frentzen stalled on the grid. His hard fought second on the grid was now negated as he found himself at the back of the grid..... At the second attempt at the start Villeneuve got away well, and was into the lead,...
The first start was aborted when Frentzen stalled on the grid. His hard fought second on the grid was now negated as he found himself at the back of the grid..... At the second attempt at the start Villeneuve got away well, and was into the lead, with Schumacher second, and a hard charging Coulthard up to third. Katayama was already off on the pit straight after the rear of the car went away from him. A puncture was suspected. Frentzen was also off, but into the gravel and out of the race after an accident with a Tyrrell. The safety car came out, and the cars trundled behind.
When the race restarted on lap 5 Fisichella was storming, and took Wurz for 9th place, whilst Eddie Irvine was all over Ralf Schumacher's car. The order was Villeneuve, Schumacher, Coulthard, Hakkinen, Herbert, Ralf Schumacher. It became clear that the McLarens were either incredibly slow (though terribly wide) or on a different strategy to the rest of the field, as the gap from Coulthard to Schumacher lengthened lap by lap. By lap 11 the gap from 2nd to 3rd was 12 seconds - those that followed barely a second behind. Magnussen was the first to pit (on lap 15), followed shortly by Hill, Barrichello, Herbert and Trulli. Irvine was now up to 6th, whilst Coulthard was locking up his tyres with regularity.
By lap 20 the front of the pack started to pit - and with 26 second between Schumacher and Coulthard in third the German could pit and get out in second. The Ferrari team apparantly foxed the Williams team by putting Schumacher's tyres in Irvine's covers.... The next lap the Williams came in, and in it stayed for a very long time as the left-front wheel nut sheered. Patrick Head did not look a happy bunny....
Villeneuve now found himself 12 seconds behind 6th placed Wurz, who had Alesi, Fisichella, Hakkinen, Coulthard and Schumacher ahead. Fisichella pitted in 12.4 seconds, letting the Benettons through to 4th and 5th. After an eternity of Coulthard holding up the race, he locked a wheel, went wide, and let Hakkinen through. The Benettons of Alesi and Wurz sensed blood, and Alesi tackled Coulthard, whilst Wurz attacked the pair of them. Not to be let off the hook Villeneuve had a go at all three. None of them got by....
The order on lap 31 was now Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alesi, Wurz, Villeneuve and Herbert. Hakkinen pitted on lap 32. Villeneuve had a go at Wurz but didn't make any progress as the young Austrian did a wonderful job of keeping his line and not falling off under pressure. There were now worrying signs from Schumachers Ferrari, with puffs of smoke coming from the left rear wheel. In he pitted, wheels were changed and Ross Braun inspected the car. Out he went and soon retired with the wheel gone again. He limped round to the pits to retire. Wurz was now in the lead! On the same lap as he took the lead the Austrian pitted and Villeneuve was handed the lead. Barrichello (running the older Series 6 Ford) retired with a blown engine. The order was now Villeneuve, Irvine, Ralf Schumacher, Hakkinen, Wurz and Alesi.
Jordan were now ready for Ralf. Herbert found himself in the pits for an extra 40+ second pitstop. Fisichella, though, was into the gravel and somehow kept it all together and back onto the track. No sooner than Herbert was out onto the track than he was back in the pits again - this time to retire. Villeneuve and Irvine both pitted, though the latter suffering from a smokey left-rear. No sooner than the car left the pits and onto the exit road than the same fate came to the Ferrari. The order on lap 44 was now Hakkinen, Villeneuve, Alesi, Wurz, Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher. Magnussen pitted, whilst at the front Villeneuve was 5.5 seconds off the lead McLaren. Damon Hill was now up to 9th place. Hakkinen was now up on the back of a Prost, with a fast chasing Villeneuve behind. Hakkinen got by, and the Prost kept Villeneuve at back for a littled while, though it was soon only a 1 second gap.
Magnussen retired the second Stewart with a blown engine (again Series 6), whilst at the front Hakkinen slows and retires - Villeneuve now had the lead that looked a lost cause not so long ago in the race. The top 6 now consisted of Villeneuve, Alesi, Wurz, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, and Fisichella. Villeneuve had a healthy 12 second lead, and Fisichella pitted with severely blistered tyres from his play time in the gravel traps. Hill was now up to 7th with 4 laps to go, with Nakano in 6th! Then when Damons hopes looked lost Nakano retired, and so Damon got his 6th place - And the crowd roared.
1. Villeneuve 2. Alesi 3. Wurz 4. Coulthard 5. Ralf Schumacher 6. Hill 7. Fisichella 8. Trulli 9. Fontana 10. Marques 11. Nakano
-- 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