Report The drama started from the moment the cars were on the grid. There was frantic activity around Schumacher's car, and also around the sister car of Irvine. Salo had changed to his T-car due to a water leak, and Adrian Newey was worried ...
The drama started from the moment the cars were on the grid. There was frantic activity around Schumacher's car, and also around the sister car of Irvine. Salo had changed to his T-car due to a water leak, and Adrian Newey was worried about the high engine revs on the cars. As the cars left on the formation lap one car didn't - the Ferrari of Schumacher. The Magnetti Marelli technicians swarmed around the car, and soon it was off on its merry way. This gave an empty spot infront of Irvine. Could this lead to a demon start from the Ulsterman?
As it turned out, no it did not. Hill was away into the lead, with Villeneuve challenging and trying very hard to get by at the first corner. He didn't suceed, and Hill set off into the distance. Alesi was in third, with Irvine behind him. Brundle too had made a good start and was in 7th and charging - this was to a good race for the Englishman.
Hill Villeneuve Alesi Irvine Hakkinen Berger 1 lap 2.052 2.943 3.321 4.447 5.010
Schumacher was trying hard to make up the places he had lost - all 18 of them. He was already up to 17th. The sister Ferrari was not having such an easy time - it suddenly slowed down and made its way back to the pits - it later transpired to be a left-front pushrod breaking. Hill, meanwhile, was charging at the front and setting fastest laps.
Hill Villeneuve Alesi Hakkinen Berger Brundle 2 laps 2.906 3.821 5.443 6.236 6.628 3 laps 3.354 4.243 6.313 6.930 7.475 4 laps 3.223 4.030 6.927 7.245 7.769
At this stage of the race, it was Brundle who was the man to watch. The transformation of his drives compared to recent races is remarkable. Brundle was soon able to dispose of Hakkinen, and up to 4th. Barrichello had seen what Brundle had done, and tried to do the same on Hakkinen. It didn't work. Katayama was soon to add his name to the list of retirements after tangling with Rosset. The Japanese driver was, however, the cause of the accident. The Tyrrell was passing Rosset, who kindly gave him room. The Tyrrell lost control and slammed into Rosset, taking both out in the process. Schumacher was now up to 14th place, and there he was to stay for a very long time, making exceedingly heavy work of passing Salo. Hill now had 5 seconds over his team-mate, and was extending it all the time. Barrichello eventually took the McLaren of Hakkinen, and was up into the points in a brilliant late-breaking move. By lap 11 the order was Hill, Villeneuve, Alesi, Berger, Brundle, Barrichello, Hakkinen, Frentzen, Coulthard, Panis, Verstappen, Herbert, Salo, Schumacher, Diniz, Fisichella, Badoer and Montermini.
In the mid-field there was a Frentzen-Coulthard-Panis sandwich. The three appeared to be glued together, such was the closeness of the contest. Lap 16:
Hill Villeneuve Alesi Berger Brundle Barrichello 16 Laps 6.751 11.609 13.250 17.149 21.986
Villeneuve was now hitting back, and set a fastest lap of 1m22.857. At the back of the field, Montermini was pitting. Schumacher was still stuck behind Salo, though now in 13th place. The Herbert-Salo-Schumacher deal was very close indeed. Hill retaliated to his team-mate on lap 18 with a 1m22.775s. More was clearly available, as the following lap came a 1m22.676 then a 1m22.412s. The Forti of Montermini was still running after its trip to collect the free glasses, and was wobbling all over the place - clearly they had come out of the glove box. Soon Montermini was to be found spinning of the track after being frightened by an approaching Williams of Villeneuve. Meanwhile, Brundle was charging after the 2 Benettons in front. Barichello, meanwhile, pitted in 11 seconds, and looked set for a two stopper. He was in again, and again, and retired. The "In" board was now out for Hill, and in he came with a 9.4 second stop.
Villeneuve Hill Alesi Berger Hakkinen Coulthard 28 laps 5.047 13.348 14.250 29.054 30.469
Villeneuve now looked to be set for a 1 stopper. Schumacher had also made progress, though by virtue of other cars pitting. He was now up to 9th. On lap 31, both Hill and Villeneuve were flying - first Villeneuve set a 1m22.353, then Hill crossed the line and set a 1m22.266s. Schumacher, meanwhile, was having an unusual problem - he was being persued by Diniz! This gave a big clue to the problems the German was having in the Ferrari. It was now that it was revealed that Hills last set of tyres were his last new ones, and the next set would be used ones. On lap 36, Berger pitted in 11.9 seconds. He rejoined the race behind Coulthard and Hakkinen, and just ahead of Brundle. Finally Villeneuve pitted in 11.5 seconds. This allowed Hill into the lead, and we had the rare situation of the two Williams' being on different pit strategies. Which would pay off? For Hill to take advantage he needed a 30 second cussion by his next pit stop..... Hakkinen was having dramas for McLaren - he came up behind a Minardi and went off. He pitted and was out in 10.9 seconds. Hill had a lead of 20 seconds by lap 36. On lap 42, Schumacher pitted. On the way out of the pits a huge piece of metal shot from the car - it later transpired to be a driveshaft...... The left-front wheel was also at a funny angle, and soon the car slowed and stopped. Hill now had a 23 second lead over Villeneuve. Lamy was the next to retire after being assaulted by the Jordan of Brundle. The Minardi was out on the spot, the Jordan limped round to the pits and had a new nose-cone fitted after ruining the front wing. Coming up to lap 49, Hill had a 28 second lead - enough to pit and keep the lead.
On lap 49 the Williams of Hill did indeed pit, and rejoined in the lead after a superb 8.6 second stop.
Hill Villeneuve Alesi Coulthard Hakkinen Herbert Lap 50 13.661 35.547 54.127 1m18.614 +1 lap
Brundle was once again on a charge, and after the Sauber of Herbert. Brundle took the Sauber on the mainstraight. By now Hill had a comfortable 11 seconds lead over Villeneuve, and he in turn had 22 seconds over Alesi. By lap 58 the gap was down to 8.6 seconds between the two Williams', but now prospect of real challenge. The race settled down, and the gap narrowed in fractions of a second over the coming laps. Hill, however, took the flag as one of only 8 finishers.....
1. Hill 1h36:03.46 2. Villeneuve +4.1 3. Alesi +54.656 4. Coulthard +1m03.673 5. Hakkinen +1 lap 6. Brundle +1 lap 7. Fisichella +1 lap
-- 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