[Moderator's note: this was received on Sunday already, but was temporarily lost in our article backlog. My apologies for the late posting. --th] Happy Birthday, Jean! At the start of the race the cars formed up properly, with the ...
[Moderator's note: this was received on Sunday already, but was temporarily lost in our article backlog. My apologies for the late posting. --th]
Happy Birthday, Jean!
At the start of the race the cars formed up properly, with the exception of Berger who angled his car to get a jump on Schumacher and Hill. At the green, however, it was all in vain, as Schumacher and Hill sped into the distance. Schumacher started to pull away from the Williams of Hill, and the Ferrari's were not that far behind. Meanwhile, behind the leaders, Herbert and Hakkinen tangled. Herbert managed to keep the engine running, but unfortunatley it was all to no avail. The McLaren of Hakkinen had its nose imbeded in the rear wheel of the Benetton. Herbert later said "Mika tried to overtake from a silly position". Something of an understatement. Later on the same lap Coulthard was also out, he appeared to loose it on a damp part of the track. Even though the McLaren of Hakkinen was in the middle of the track, stuck in gear, the race continued. At the time it seemed amazingly stupid. In the end it was probably for the best.
Alesi bunged in a 1m32.091 on lap 3, Schumacher responded on lap 4 with a 1m31.049. Alesi was making huge inroads into the Williams of Hill, by around 3/4 of a second a lap. The Jordans and the Saubers were running well (5,6 and 7). The new rear-suspension geometry on the Jordan appeared to have done the trick.
Lap 6: Schumacher Hill Alesi Berger Barrichello Irvine
Lap 6, Schumacher bangs in a fastest lap of 1m30.767. On lap 7, Montermini pulls into the pits - not a routine stop. The track was drying fast at this stage. Then, as at Monaco, the jump start penalties started to roll - though thankfully not as many - Katayama, Salo, and Martini.
By lap 10, the Forti of Diniz was lapped by Schumacher, and by Hill, Berger and Alesi on lap 12. The team has no business in Formula 1 with lap speeds 8 seconds off the pace. On lap 18, Hill comes up to lap Katayama and Martini, and as he does so, Alesi squeezes by into second place at the corner before the chicane. What a rarity, overtaking in the top 3. Martini, meanwhile, continues in his quest to emulate Rene Arnoux by making his Minardi a mobile chicane. On a number of occasions he cuts up the Ferrari of Berger. Eventually he would get a 10 second penalty for his trouble.
Lap 19: Schumacher Alesi Hill Berger Barrichello Irvine
On lap 21, Bouillion retires in his Sauber, by stuffing it into a gravel trap. Katayama comes in for fuel and tyres, one of the few to make a two stop race. He is rewarded with a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane for his trouble. Martini gets his penalty on lap 25, and on lap 26 comes in for fuel and tyres. Gachot does likewise. By lap 26, Gerhard Berger and Damon Hill were really fighting for 3rd, and finally Berger gets ahead. On lap 28, Saubers woes increased when Frentzen also went out of the race. The erstwhile reliable Forti of Diniz, though, has enough and quits also. Hill was dropping further and further back as the laps rolled on - he must surely have had a problem. By lap 30, it was clear that only the Tyrrells, Minardis, and Pacifics had gone the two stop route. The question was, when would the leaders come in.
On lap 34 we knew, as Irvine, Alesi, Hill, Barrichello, and Panis (with a very smoky rear end) all come in for fuel and tyres - all around the 16 second mark. Lap 35, and Berger slows, and slows, and slows. He had run out of fuel on the track, and just made it back to the pits. Blundell comes in for fuel and tyres also.
Lap 37: Schumacher Alesi Hill Barrichello Irvine Panis Brundle Berger Blundell Morbidelli Inoue Salo Badoer Katayama Martini Gachot
On lap 38, Schumacher came in for fuel and tyres - he only had a 12.9 second stop - 30 litres less fuel than the others in the top 6. How? Gachot retires on lap 40. Blundell follows, parking his McLaren on lap 39. Then, dramatically, Hill slows and stops by the pit wall on lap 51, jumps into the pit lane, and storms off. He isn't too keen to speak, and was reported to make his views on the Williams quite known to Frank. He was later reported as saying he was "not happy" that his Williams was stuck in 6th gear with hydraulic problems (again). Meanwhile a battle royalle was shaping up between Brundle and Berger over 6th place. They were now both being held up by Mika Salo's Tyrrell, and this added to the drama. Moreno retires on lap 54.
Drama again hits the Canadian Grand Prix on lap 58 when Schumacher's Benetton slows massively. Slower, and slower, and slower. He limps back to the pits, and the mechanics remove the steering wheel, and hook up the computer. He rejoins 1.5 minutes later. Alesi had the lead! What a birthday present for Jean, the question was would he keep it.
Lap 58: Alesi Barrichello +23.128 Irvine +27.314 Panis +50.881 Brundle +62.031 Berger +62.640
Schumacher rejoined in 8th place, lapping 4 seconds a lap faster than Alesi. It would prove to be a lost cause. Meanwhile the battle for 5th between Brundle and Berger gets even more heated, with Berger constantly trying to edge his nose ahead of the Ligier. Finally on lap 62, almost inevitably, the two colide. In a last ditch attempt to get ahead, Berger takes to the grass and t-bones the Ligier. Exit one Ferrari and one Ligier. Brundle, one to accept the blame at Monaco, was angry at Berger saying that he had been "going around [the corner] at normal speed and ..... a Ferrari came to tea". Only Jordan had two cars in the top 6.
On lap 64, Schumcher bangs in a 1m29.431 to prove it had been his race, but it was too late. He was 56 seconds behind the leaders in 5th place.
Lap 65: Alesi Barrichello +24.221 Irvine +32.302 Panis +44.941 Schumacher +56.577 Morbidelli +1 lap
Alesi lead into the final lap, and took his first win, with floods of fans recklessly taking to the track. A fantastic birthday present for Jean, and also a present to Ferrari, as they become the winningest Grand Prix team with 105 wins. Sportingly, Schumacher gave a lift back to the pits to Alesi when he parked his car on the run-down lap.
Alesi Barrichello Irvine Panis Schumacher Morbidelli Badoer Salo Inoue
-- 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