What a Herbert! At the start Damon took advantage of his pole position and took the lead, with Alesi second, who made a blistering start coming up from sixth on the grid. Schumacher was down in third place. Also on the move was Hakkinen who...
What a Herbert!
At the start Damon took advantage of his pole position and took the lead, with Alesi second, who made a blistering start coming up from sixth on the grid. Schumacher was down in third place. Also on the move was Hakkinen who moved up from 8th to 6th, taking full advantage of the new spec Mercedes engine.
Hill Alesi Schumacher Coulthard Herbert Hakkinen
Lap 2, and Damon set a fastest lap of 1m31.032, and was rapidly pulling away from the Ferrari of Alesi, taking a two second lead already. Eddie Irvine retired on lap 2, spinning off into the gravel. By lap 5, Hill had extended the lead to 6 seconds, whilst the Benetton of Schumacher was desparately trying to get by the Ferrari of Alesi. Hill then put in another fastest lap of 1m30.458sec. The gap was up to 7.5 seconds on lap 6, and 8.767 seconds on lap 7. Schumacher ducked and weaved, and locked his brakes, such was his deparation in trying to get by the Ferrari. Alesi was surely holding back the German. David Coulthard also was gaining on Schumacher, and quite a tussle was taking place.
On lap 8 the Jump Start penalties came through, it was Barrichello and Panis again. Such was the pace of Hill (or rather the lack of pace of the Forti) that Hill was able to start lapping the backmarkers on this lap. By lap 12 the lead was extended to 13.736 seconds, with a fastest lap of 1m30.402s. Coulthard came in for his first pit stop. By lap 16, Hill had extended his lead to 16 seconds. Alesi and Schumacher had now come across the scrapping Pacifics and Fortis, could this be the chance that Schumacher needed to get by the Ferrari? He sees his chance and tries to get by, but fails to do so. Meanwhile, further down the field, Inoue spins on the straight, and out of the race. Brundle obviously felt some sympathy, and puts the power down too early, and spins exiting a corner, straight into the kitty litter. Alesi pitted on lap 18, and this allowed the Benetton to move up to second, and back in the business of chasing Hill.
By lap 20, Hill's lead was extended to 20 seconds, but Schumacher is starting to make progess, taking a second out of Hill's lead. Lap 21:
Hill Schumacher Herbert Hakkinen Berger Blundell Alesi Coulthard Barrichello Frentzen Katayama Panis
Berger and Hakkinen come in for their pit stops, Berger having his radiators cleared whilst in the pits. Damon Hill sets another fastest lap, this time 1m30.140s. Hakkinen's McLaren retires from the race, just as it leaves the pits - the new engine didn't prove reliable enough for him. Berger likewise does the same in his Ferrari. Johnny Herber then came in for his first of two stops, different stategies would be used by the two Benettons. On lap 22, Hill came in for his stop, and rejoins 7.6 seconds behind the Benetton. The Benetton, light on fuel, was now lapping some 3/4 second faster than the Williams of Hill. Coulthard continues to push Alesi. Drama further back, as debutant Papis breaks his cars suspension and ends up in the gravel. On lap 31, Schumacher came in for his one and only pit stop, and rejoined in second place, some 20 seconds behind the Englishman. The skies start to look like rain, could this play into the hands of Hill?
On lap 30, Hill posted another fastest lap, 1m30.001, followed on lap 36 by a 1m30.000. The gap was now 23.900 seconds, then a 1m29.752s. Lap 31:
Hill Schumacher Herbert Alesi Coulthard Blundell
The Williams pit crew were ready for Hill, whilst Hill was building up a healthy 25 second cussion to the Benetton. On lap 40, Alesi pitted, and on lap 41 Herbert comes in for his second stop. Hill came in and with a 11.5 second stop, rejoined the race just behind the Benetton - barely a cars length between them. Schumacher, clearly rattled, starts pushing and pushing regularly locking his wheels as plumes of smoke come off them. On lap 43, Panis and Coulthard came in for their stops - the latters would prove decisive soon. Herbert had now took Coulthards place. Lap 44:
Schumacher Hill Herbert Coulthard Alesi Blundell
The Schumacher-Hill battle was really heating up, with the two never more than a car length apart. It was a superb battle. Then Schumacher and Hill collided. Was it Schumacher repaying Hill for France? The Benetton surely did brake extremely early, but equally it was a desparate move on the Englishmans behalf. The two touched and were launched into the gravel.
We now had a new leader - Johnny Herbert now had the lead! It wasn't a honeymoon for the Essexman, with Coulthard all over the back, and sensing a chance to make his impression on the team. The two of them tussled and faught all over the track. It really was a sight to see - a real battle at the front of the pack. To add to the fun, Alesi was only 6 seconds behind and catching fast. Coulthard tries the same manoevre as Hill tried on Schumacher. Thankfully they didn't touch, but the Benetton kept the lead. Then the Coulthards pit stop would pay him back - he was awarded a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, but it was obvious that the Scot didn't know, as he continued to battle for the lead, and eventually took it, Herbert immediatly trying to get by again. Herbert, obviously now knowing what was going on, didn't battle anymore - he held back knowing the Williams would have to go in soon. Lap 50:
Coulthard Herbert Alesi Blundell Barrichello Panis
Coulthard goes in for his penalty on lap 51, and Herbert regains the lead. Alesi was now ready to join in the fun, a mere 4.8 seconds behind the Englishman. Lap after lap the Ferrari tried to cut into the Benettons lead, but it could only gain tenths. Lap 56:
Herbert Alesi Coulthard Blundell Barrichello Panis
Into the last lap, lap 61, Barrichello overdoes it and lands in the litter as the Benetton of Herbert takes the flag. Then Alesi, Coulthard, and Panis! Where was Blundell? The Jordan of Barrichello and the McLaren of Blundell had touched, and shredded the right rear tyre of the McLaren in the process. Markie though, managed to fight the thing back, dragging the rear with him, and valiantly took 5th place with no left rear wheel. A truly impressive race, and action where it should be - on the track not the pitlane.
Herbert Alesi Coulthard Panis Blundell Frentzen Martini Salo Boullion Badoer
Fastest lap: Damon Hill 1m29.752s
WWW Version available at the address below. -- 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