Australian Grand Prix report

At the start Lamy was to start from the pit lane. As the grid set off on the formation lap, Hill overtook Villeneuve. Bad idea. Frentzen's Sauber showed that it didn't want to play and died at turn 3. When the red light went out, the Williams...

At the start Lamy was to start from the pit lane. As the grid set off on the formation lap, Hill overtook Villeneuve. Bad idea. Frentzen's Sauber showed that it didn't want to play and died at turn 3. When the red light went out, the Williams of Villeneuve lead into the first corner from Hill. Meanwhile, Irvine and Schumacher attacked Hill. This, however, became academic as the Jordan of Martin Brundle was launched violently into the air, and into the gravel trap, snapping in two as it did so. For a moment I feared the worse, then Brundle got out of the car and all appeared well with him. A huge relief. On replays it appeared that Coulthard was either hit or did hit someone, this sent him slewing sideways into the Jordan. The Jordan was then launched by the rear wheel of Herbert's Sauber. A new race was declared, and teams could use the spares. This would cause a problem chez Sauber. Both cars were out, and only one spare. Frentzen was to get first call on it. Meanwhile, Brundle was having problems of his own. He wanted to race, but a doctor said no, so Brundle was running up and down the pit-lane looking for Sid Watkins to say yes. With little time to spare he did so, and so Brundle took his place - but from the pit lane. Another to start from the pit lane was David Coulthard whose McLaren was involved in the accident that stopped the race.

At the second formation lap Villeneuve lead Hill around the circuit. At the start Villeneuve took the lead, and kept Hill behind. Hill also kept the Ferrari's behind him. Berger, meanwhile, was attacking the Ferrari's from a different angle. Irvine was leading his team mate, whilst the top 4 pulled away from Alesi.

Villeneuve Hill +0.541 Irvine +1.279 Schumacher +1.486 Alesi +2.804

Brundle wasn't having a good day of it, and was attacked by the Ligier of Pedro Diniz who looked hopelessly out of depth in the Ligier all race long.

Villeneuve continued to keep his lead over Hill, and extended it to 1.048 seconds by the end of lap 4. Rosset and Lamy colided. Rosset, making his F1 debut, lit the tyres up wildly to get it pointing in the right direction and did. As all this was going on Villeneuve, Schumacher and Hill were trading fastest laps. On lap 9, Alesi and Irvine colide, ripping the left half of the Benetton's sidepods off. The Ferrari was made of stronger stuff and didn't even need to pit, and looked non the worse for it's ordeal. Alesi pitted, and later retired. On lap 17, Verstappen retires from a very promising race for him. A sad end to the star of practice.

By lap 19, Ferrari were ready for a pit stop. Schumacher came in and took 12.9 seconds - the first of two planned stops. He rejoined in 4th place behind Irvine. At the front of the pack Hill continued to hassle Villeneuve for all it was worth. On lap 23, Irvine pitted his Ferrari.

Villeneuve Hill Schumacher Hakkinen Barrichello Berger

Villeneuve made short work of getting by the Sauber of Frentzen. Frentzen then chopped across the Williams of Hill who was following. Benetton were now also ready for pit stops, with Berger in and out in 9.1 seconds, rejoining ahead of Katayama, Barrichello pitted for Jordan in 11.3 seconds. He rejoined behind Berger. Lap 26:

Villeneuve Hill Schumacher Hakkinen Irvine Berger Barrichello Katayama Panis Salo Frentzen Coulthard (retired)

The gap from the Williams' was now 34 seconds to the Ferrari of Schumacher. Good enough for a pit and still be leading. Villeneuve was the first to pit in an awful 17.6 seconds. Hill came in the following lap and managed an even worse 18.5 seconds. Hill however managed to grab the lead..... The clearly upset Villeneuve, who so far had only seen F1 from the front, as he tried to mussle his way past. He did. Schumacher was having dramas with his Ferrari by the point. He was in the pits having the nose cone removed to sort out the brakes which were not working as they should. There was no fluid left. The team topped it up. This leaves me puzzled, as I am pretty sure no fluids are allowed to be added to the car during a race..... It was not relevant very soon, as soon as the car left the pit to the track it was into the gravel bed, it's brakes clearly no better. Schumacher scrambled back to the track, but was retired. Hill, meanwhile, was attacking Villeneuve for all it was worth. This paid off, as soon Villeneuve was off the track, scooting across the greenstuff, back on the track and blocked Hill from taking the corner. Not the cleanest of moves. Hill continued to push, forcing the young Canadian to twitch and twitch as the front became very loose. By lap 49 the battle was still raging, and every time Hill eat into the 1 second lead of Jacques, the Canadian grabbed it back. It was also becoming clear that the Rothmans sponsored car was smoking, and turning the white areas of Hill's car yellow. Rather appropriate really! Hill now had the gap down to half a second. Renault announced that they were "very concerned" about Jacques engine, and the Williams team told him to slow down. He eventually did with 5 laps to go, and just held it together to finish second to Hill. Renault confirmed that the problem was "failing oil pressure". In the excitement we miss Katayama dropping behind Rosset and Diniz.

Hill 1h32:50.491s Villeneuve Irvine Berger Hakkinen Salo Panis Frentzen Rosset Diniz Katayama

-- 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


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Martin Brundle , Tiff Needell , Pedro Diniz
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan