Report The race started with Hill taking the lead from pole. A lead he would not relinquish in the 72 laps that followed. Schumacher was determined to make sure that Hill didn't have it all his own way, and harried the Englishman for his lead.
The race started with Hill taking the lead from pole. A lead he would not relinquish in the 72 laps that followed. Schumacher was determined to make sure that Hill didn't have it all his own way, and harried the Englishman for his lead. Further back, Alesi made a cracking start and was charging up the field ahead of Villeneuve by the first corner. The top 4 cars were covered by a very small gap, and all in danger of taking each other at any time
Hill Schumacher Alesi Berger Coulthard Barrichello Lap 1 0.604 1.509 2.282 5.721 6.554 Lap 2 0.830 1.632 2.238 9.362 11.120 Lap 3 0.906 1.906 2.924 9.362 11.120 Lap 4 0.671 2.416 3.368 11.242 14.037 Lap 5 0.795 2.650 4.785 13.378 16.253
On lap 7, Mika Salo spun off the track with little help from anyone else. He managed to keep the car going, and continued onwards. Villeneuve was charging further down the field after a dreadful start, taking Coulthard for 5th place by lap 8. Hill, Schumacher and Alesi were close, each making time on the other. On lap 12 Verstappen made a one-off error in the race, and went into the gravel, dropping back to 11th. He kept the car going and continued. This was to be the only error from the talented Dutchman.
By lap 17, Hill had extended his lead over Schumacher to 2.7 seconds. Mika Salo decided to pit to remove the extra ballast he had collected from his gardening. Hakkinen pitted on lap 18, and pulled up before the garage. He was to retire. On lap 22 the real pit stops started, with Schumacher coming in from 2nd, and leaving in a stunning 7.1 seconds. Alesi, meanwhile, was banging in the fastest laps. On lap 23 he pitted in an unbelievable 5.0 seconds. Somehow, though the little French-Sicillian didn't get the upper hand over the German, who managed to gain time over Alesi on the entry and exit of the pit lane. Villeneuve was now all over Alesi's rear as Alesi tried to get heat into the tyres. On lap 24, Hill pitted in 9.6 seconds and managed to just keep the lead from Schumacher - quite incredible giving the Germans incredible performance in a hack-chassis. Berger followed into the pits on the same lap doing the business in 7.9 seconds. On lap 28 Coulthard came in.
A bigger drama was going on on the track. The Ligier of Diniz had a magnetic attraction to the rear end of Badoer's Forti. The Forti found itself upside down. The marshal's came to watch this new sport, and offered little or no help until too late. Badoer made his feelings known to the marshal who came once he had got out.... The safety car came out, and Barrichello came into the pits to take advantage of the situation. Panis did likewise. Ukyo Katayama managed an off whilst under yellows, adding to the retirements.
A bigger drama was now about to unfurl. The Ligier of Diniz (who remember had the thing with the Forti) burst a fuel line and was suddenly on fire. Diniz was out whilst the car was still on fire. More laps would now ensue behind the safety car.
At the restart on lap 33, Alesi almost speared the back of Schumacher's Ferrari - this would later lead to the German's retirement. Frentzen retires at the restart, as Alesi's Benetton was not a happy thing, sliding all over the track as the tyres slowly built up heat again.
By lap 34 strange smoke signals were coming from the rear of the Ferrari of Schumacher, and they were not to the pits. By lap 38, Hill had taken his lead over Schumacher to 3.6 seconds. On lap 40 Schumacher pitted in 12.6 seconds. Lamy meanwhile had enough and pulls off. It is also announced that Brundle retired with rear wing failure, and would have taken 20 minutes to fix. Schumacher rejoined the race in 8th, as Benetton were preparing for their stops. Alesi's stop was to prove disastrous - not only did it take over 8 seconds, but he then stalled the car. A further 16 seconds was lost in the pits. He was to rejoin behind Schumacher. Alesi, however, was not keen on this and made a lurid lunge inside Schumacher's Ferrari and won. Looked wonderful, but the impact was lost when a Jordan and a Sauber managed the same feat. The Ferrari was obviously in trouble. He pulled into the pits to retire with "rear end trouble".
On lap 48 Salo retires, and the race is starting to look more like one of survival. On lap 58, Hill was given a pit signal to "Pump Off". The same lap, Berger came into the pits for new tyres after a suspected puncture. The tyres were fine, and Berger pulled off the track later with suspected rear suspension damage. By lap 60 the main action was further down the field, with Verstappen hauling in the McLaren of Coulthard. In a fantastic manoeuvre the Dutchman lunged inside the McLaren, and took 6th. On lap 66, Alesi set the fastest lap of the race, a 1m29.413s. By lap 70 it was all over bar the shouting, and so Herbert decided to liven things up by having a huge moment in front of Eddie Irvine. An accident was narrowly avoided. With that over, the race continued to the flag, and Hill won again. What price 5 in a row?
1. Hill 2. Villeneuve 3. Alesi 4. Barrichello 5. Irvine 6. Verstappen 7. Coulthard 8. Panis 9. Herbert 10. Montermini
-- 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