European GP report

Before the race it was confirmed that David Coulthard will be driving for McLaren for the next two seasons. David made an impact again on the formation lap, when yet again he lost the car. He was able to take the grid in the spare car. On the...

Before the race it was confirmed that David Coulthard will be driving for McLaren for the next two seasons. David made an impact again on the formation lap, when yet again he lost the car. He was able to take the grid in the spare car.

On the grid all the cars were on wets, other than the two Ferrari's and the two McLaren's, for a wet but drying track. The McLaren's sporting their 3rd wing for this race. As they went around on the formation lap, Max Papis stalled his Arrows on the grid. There then followed the farce of the car first being pushed up the grid to the front, then they fiddled around with it, before pushing it back again to the back. The start is aborted in the farcical situation. The race was to be run now to 67 laps.

On the second attempt at a start, the Forti of Moreno stalls on the parade lap, and is removed before the grid come around. However, the fun didn't stop their, as Takki Inoue decided also to join the fun at the back of the grid, and stall his car whilst waiting for the lights. The race started without him - the officials obviously feeling that it wouldn't matter too much if he didn't take part...... As the race started, Coulthard took the lead, with Schumacher up to second, Irvine to 3rd, and Hill down to fourth. A bad start to the race for Hill. Meanwhile, further back, Frentzen gets ahead of Berger. Hill finally gets ahead of Irvine.

Coulthard Schumacher +0.584 Hill +4.390 Irvine +4.830 Herbert +5.314 Alesi +5.915

Hill was now pulling away from Irvine and making progress on Schumacher. He sliced 1.2 seconds into the German on lap 2, and with it set a fastest lap of 1m37.424s. Schumacher, meanwhile, was all over the Williams of Coulthard. Hill did it again, and cut the gap to Schumacher to 1.7 seconds, with another fastest lap (1m37.382). Hill was leaping all over the track to keep his tyres cool. Schumacher, sensing danger, tries at Coulthard, but fails to get by. On lap 4, Frentzen was this races lucky recipient of the 10 second jump start penalty. The front three drivers were in a class of their own at this stage of the race, pulling away from the rest of the field for all it was worth. By the end of lap 5, the gap from 3rd to 4th was 9.4 seconds. Alesi got by the Benetton of Herbert to take 5th.

Coulthard Schumacher Hill Irvine Alesi Herbert Barrichello Frentzen Berger Brundle Panis Salo Boullion Lamy Badoer

Hill was continuing to pile on the pressure, with another fastest lap - 1m3.149s. By lap 6, Hill was all over the gearbox of Schumacher. He tried to get by, but failed. On lap 7, to make the point again, Hill set another fastest lap, this time a 1m36.857s. Hill tries again to get by the Benetton, and with a little weaving from the Benetton, failed to get by. By lap 8, the leading trio had 12.8 seconds over 4th. Hill was really harrying the Benetton for second, but Schumacher kept it under control, and on lap 9, set a fastest lap of 1m36.521s. On lap 9, sensing the drying track, Barrichello came in for slicks. The leaders were already up on the Forti's, Coulthard and Schumacher getting by cleanly. Hill had to wait a little while before he was able to get ahead. Lap 10:

Coulthard Schumacher +0.423 Hill +0.999 Irvine +13.797 Alesi +17.887 Herbert +19.533

On lap 10, Alesi sent out the signal that slicks were now the thing to have. He put in a 1m36.319s. Schumacher and Hill pit at the same time, Hill's stop taking 3 seconds longer than the German's. Schumacher rejoined behind Herbert, Hill behind Berger. Alesi banged in a 1m36.1s. Hill was now all over the Ferrari, with Herbert staying ahead of Schumacher as well. Hill tried to get by the Ferrari, but failed to do so. Coulthard, meanwhile, at the front of the pack, came in for his stop. Alesi now had the lead, as Herbert also pitted. Schumacher was now all over the Williams of Coulthard in the battle for 3rd. On lap 13, Max Papis was awarded a 10 second "starting position penalty".

Alesi Irvine Coulthard Schumacher Berger Hill

Hill was all over Berger, who in turn was all over the Benetton of Schumacher. Hill battles by, and takes Berger for 5th place. Alesi set another fastest lap on lap 14, with a 1m34.7s.

Alesi Irvine +15.594 Coulthard +15.824 Schumacher +17.271 Hill +19.120 Berger +19.660

On the replays, it became clear how Hill got by the Ferrari. Schumacher was lapping Deletraz ahead, and Berger slowed down to avoid a collision. Hill, sensing his opportunity, managed then to get ahead of the Ferrari on the run up to the corner. A nice, neat overtaking manoevre. Irvine now pits. Panis retires as he spins off the track. Hill now takes Schumacher for 3rd, but it was short lived, as the German managed to get by yet again. It was a desperate manoevre, as Schumacher squeezed Hill off the track and onto the kurbs. Hill did well to recover from it. Blundell retired on the track on lap 17. Alesi, still at the front, set another fastest lap (1m32.761s).

Montermini was now holding up the Williams of Hill, allowing Schumacher to get away again. The Williams got by, as did the Ferrari of Berger. Alesi had built up a huge 21 second lead by this stage. The race was well under his control. Frentzen, meanwhile, continued to have a bad day, being squeezed off the track by an errant Diniz. Lap 18:

Alesi Coulthard +23.605 Schumacher +26.802 Hill +28.348 Berger +28.755 Irvine +53.346

On lap 19, surprise, surprise, Alesi banged in another fastest lap - this time a 1m31.948s. Alesi now had a 28 second lead. Hill was back on the tail of the Benetton, and now looked set to get by. Schumacher had other ideas. By lap 20, Alesi had stretched his lead to 29.871 seconds over Coulthard. Hill was all over the kurbs in his attempt to get by Schumacher. Coulthard meanwhile was untroubled in second place, and attempting to get by Hakkinen. Hakkinen baulked and baulked, refusing to let Coulthard by (a good way to say hello to next years team mate!). Schumacher in the process managed to get ahead of Coulthard. Positions on lap 21:

Alesi Schumacher Coulthard Hill Berger Irvine Herbert Barrichello Brundle Salo Boullion

Hakkinen finally gets the message, and lets the Benetton and Williams by. He then continues as before, and baulks Berger. Ferrari were now ready for a pit stop. Lap 22, and Alesi bangs in a 1m30.459s. Hill manages to get by Coulthard. Lap 22, Alesi sets a 1m30.450. Alesi now had a 35 second lead over Schumacher. Berger also gets by Coulthard. Was there something wrong with the Williams? The pit said not. It was clearly the case, because soon the Williams was yet again crawling all over the gearbox of the Ferrari. Berger pits, and rejoins just ahead of Irvine. On lap 25, Alesi sets another fastest lap, this time a 1m28.396s. The track was really speeding up. He followed this with a 27.541, 27.211, 26.656, and a 26.509 in successive laps. There was clearly nothing wrong with Alesi's car. Alesi now had a 42 second lead over the Benetton of Schumacher. On lap 29, Alesi came up to lap the Benetton of Herbert. On lap 30, Hill broke Alesi's record, and set a 1m26.108. Hill was all over Schumacher by now. Herbert, meanwhile, learning something from his team-mate, squeezes Irvine off the track. Herbert ruins the nose in the process, and pits for a new one to be fitted.

Meanwhile, on lap 32, Schumacher set a 1m25.225. The following lap Hill set a 1m24.891. The times were tumbling. On lap 33, Alesi pits for 15.8 seconds, rejoins still comfortably in the lead. Schumacher pits in 7.7 seconds. On lap 35, Hill piles on the pressure, and sets a 1m23.983s. On lap 37, Schumacher sets a 1m23.699s. Hill was catching Alesi, but he had yet to stop. The stops were miss-timed as the Williams lost 3 seconds a lap to the German in 3rd place. On lap 38, as Hil tried to get past Alesi, he is barged off the track by the Ferrari and looses the the front wing in the process. The replays showed that Alesi had left the door not just open, but off its hinges as well. Hill, understandably, dived for it, but Alesi then snapped the door shut and hit the Williams. Hill now had to ponder a 32 second stop for a new nose.

Berger also pits, but has a huge problem. The car 2 minutes later is still stranded in the pits, and is finally retired. Hill was now 8 seconds behind Coulthard. On lap 44, Schumacher set a 1m24.400. Alesi's lead was now a scant 11 seconds. Back in the pits there was more drama, as Montermini ran over his refuelling mechanic. On lap 47, Schumacher set a 1m22.146s. Tarquini then suffers a right-rear puncture and spins off the track. By lap 48, Schumacher was really cutting into Alesi, with another fastest lap - 1m21.645 - taking the lead to 3.8 seconds.

Backmarkers continued to amuse the audience, with a very wobbly Deletraz weaving and swerving all over the place - one is only to hope the team hadn't put anything too strong in his drink bottle! On lap 49, Schumacher set a 1m21.596, and taken the Ferrari's lead down to 1.5 seconds. Diniz, meanwhile, went off the track very slowly, and then rejoined the track very slowly. He then continued on his merry way around the track - very slowly. Benetton were now ready for another pit stop. Schumacher came in on lap 52 for this. Irvine had a drama, spinning as he tried to get past Papis. Lap 53:

Alesi Schumacher +22.382 Coulthard +39.426 Hill +46.789 Barrichello +1 lap Herbert (PIT) + 1 lap

Lap after lap, the lead of Alesi came down. On lap 55 it was 18 seconds, by lap 56 it was 15.7 seconds. Lap 57, 13.669 seconds. You could sense that it wouldn't be long before the German was up for the lead.

On lap 60, Hill hit a wet curb, and spun, hitting the barriers front on at great speed. He was out, and with it must surely go his chances for the championship. The safety car, meanwhile, comes to see what had happened, and slew across the track (almost taking a couple of cars with it), and kicked a lot of mud onto the track. On lap 61, clearly under pressure, Alesi goes off the track whilst behind Brundle. He missed the apex completely and just cut it off. He rejoined, but now with an even smaller lead.

With 4 laps to go, and the pressure really piling on, the Ferrari had no lead at all - the Benetton was all over the gearbox. Alesi breaked late, and Schumacher tried to dive by. He failed just. Hakkine and a Forti leave the track with the two leaders behind them. Schumacher then dived down the inside of the Ferrari, and got by. A shame really, as Alesi had brilliantly had control of the race from the start. Things then stayed quiet, except for the cheers of the crowd, as Michael Schumacher took the lead, and won a brilliant race. Easily one of the best this year.

Schumacher Alesi Coulthard Barrichello Herbert Irvine Brundle Hakkinen Lamy Salo Badoer Papis Diniz Tarquini Deletraz

>From the <A HREF="">Vollansport Page</A><HR ALIGN="LEFT">

-- 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


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Max Papis , Tiff Needell
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton