At the start Villeneuve made a tardy start, allowing Schumacher to take the lead. Following Villeneuve were Berger, Panis, and Hakkinen. It was all for nothing as Magnussen was stranded on the grid and unable to be moved. Also Villeneuve took a...
At the start Villeneuve made a tardy start, allowing Schumacher to take the lead. Following Villeneuve were Berger, Panis, and Hakkinen. It was all for nothing as Magnussen was stranded on the grid and unable to be moved. Also Villeneuve took a excursion off the track as Schumacher took him at the first corner. The German had gone in the inside of the first corner and clearly had the corner. He Canadian should have conceded defeat, but didn't and it almost cost him the race. Also caught up in the drama was a Jordan which launched Damon Hills Arrows at the same corner. Further round the circuit Barrichello was a victim of Irvine. The race was black flagged. For Magnussen his race was over - both Stewarts were out, and Barrichello had priority at this race for the spare car. Another possible out was Hill. His race car was already out before the race with an oil leak. The spare now needed a new nose and new rear suspension. Amazingly the team changed the suspension at the back in time for the restart (a total of little over 10 minutes!). Irvine also needed a new car, which was set up for Schumacher. This would cause problems later. Frentzen also took to the spare car.
The second start went almost without drama, as Villeneuve got away well but Schumacher did it better and took the lead for a moment. Hakkinen also made a blistering start and attacked Villeneuve, but didn't quite manage it. Katayama was stranded on the grid. Already the front two cars were pulling away, with Villeneuve having the advantage over Schumacher. By lap 2 Hill had already made up two places to 7th, and Villeneuve had made a 1.1 second gap over Schumacher. Hakkinen in third was a further 1.5 seconds adrift, followed by Berger, Alesi, and Panis. Frentzen was down in 12th place. Larini was also making progress, taking Trulli for 16th. By lap 6 Villeneuve had a 4 second lead over Schumacher. Berger, meanwhile, had caught up with the leading group, and was challenging hard for Schumachers place. He took it briefly, but the German soon took it back. Berger was not going to give up without a fight. Frentzen had now made up a place and was running 11th. By lap 8 Villeneuve was pulling away from Schumacher and had an 7.7 second cussion. Further back Diniz took Irvine for 14th place. By lap 11 the lead was 10.3 seconds, and Schumacher was clearly holding up Berger who could challenge for the lead. Berger finally managed it on lap 12 on the main straight, where the Benetton had a clear advantage over the Ferrari. Berger was soon chasing hard after Villeneuve.
Further down the grid Diniz retired from 15th place, as Barrichello pulled into the pits to retire the sole Stewart. Herbert was also in the pits - too early for a routine stop - and Frentzen was making ground on Fisichella in 9th place. By lap 20 Villeneuve had a 9 second lead over Berger, with Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alesi, and Panis completing the top 6. Herbert, now near the back of the field, took Verstappen. Coulthard, who had been pushing Hill hard for 7th place, pitted early presumably to try and take him in the pits. He rejoined the race in clear air, but 14th place. Berger was soon also to pit, as did Alesi and Irvine. By lap 25 the positions were Villeneuve, Schumacher (+23 seconds), Panis (+27 seconds), Berger (+37 seconds), Hakkinen (+44 seconds), and Ralf Schumacher (+46 seconds).
Fisichella was next to pit on lap 26, with Villeneuve pitting and Schumacher entering as the Canadian had left. Villeneuve was able to rejoin in the lead, with a 1.3 second lead over Panis, Berger, Hill, Frentzen and Hakkinen. The Goodyear tyres were not wearing well, and the Bridgestones of Hill and Panis were working very well - so well that they were able to get by with a 1 stop strategy later on against Goodyear's 2. On lap 28 Frentzen pitted and got away, if rather untidily. By lap 31 the Bridgestone runners were preparing for their only stop, and the tyres were performing very well, with Panis setting very good times just before his stop. Panis finally pitted on lap 33. On lap 33, Irvine was back in the pits and having his seatbelts refastened. Lap 36 saw the order of Villeneuve, Berger, Hakkinen, Hill, Schumacher, Alesi, Panis, Herbert, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Frentzen and Fisichella. Hill was fending off Schumacher and Alesi, but was due to stop. Unfortunately the Englishman decided to fight them for another lap, they got by and cost Damon a chance of being further up the field later on. On lap 37 Hill pitted.
On lap 40 bizarely Hakkinen pitted. Ralf Schumacher had also pitted, and was having a lengthy stop after a problem with the right rear wheel. The order was now Villeneuve, Berger, Schumacher, Alesi, Panis, and Herbert. Coulthard was now also in for his second stop, soon to be followed by the rest of the Goodyear runners in the following laps. Villeneuve was struggling at the point, unable to lap Coulthard, and losing time rapidly to the advancing Berger. Williams were ready in the pits, and Villeneuve pitted. Schumacher similarly was in and out. Berger now had the lead, but still had to stop. Villeneuve rejoined the race in second place. Alesi also joined in the pit action, allowing Panis to move up to 3rd. Berger extended his lead over Villeneuve to 18 seconds, but this was not enough to retain the lead when he pitted. Villeneuve was now back into the lead. Frentzen made his second stop. The order on lap 49 was now Villeneuve, Berger, Panis, Hakkinen, Schumacher and Alesi. The top 6 were followed by Frentzen, Herbert, Fisichella, Hill, Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher. The latter was soon to retire at the start of the pit entry lane.
The race now settled down with no great drama other than hot looking brakes on Villeneuve's Williams, and Berger having a go at chasing for the lead. On lap 67 Berger was 4 seconds adrift, but had to get by Katayama and Verstappen to have a chance of going for the leader. On lap 69 Berger got past and 4 laps to go to get the victory he wanted. Villeneuve was now the one caught up in traffic, but a courteous Coulthard let him through. Sadly Hill's valiant drive was over as he pulled into the pits with an oil fire. The rest stayed settled on the track. The disappointment of the race however had to be Frentzen's unspectacular drive to 9th place.
Villeneuve Berger Panis Hakkinen Schumacher Alesi Herbert Fisichella Frentzen Coulthard Larini Trulli Salo Nakano Verstappen Irvine Hill 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