French Grand Prix report

Schumacher in Control The cars formed up on the grid with no dramas, the lights turned red, then green, and Hill got away with a good start. Barichello was up to third behind Schumacher, with Coulthard close behind the Jordan, ready to ...

Schumacher in Control

The cars formed up on the grid with no dramas, the lights turned red, then green, and Hill got away with a good start. Barichello was up to third behind Schumacher, with Coulthard close behind the Jordan, ready to challenge. Further down the grid was contact for Katayama and Inoue. Then, Mika Hakkinen decided that was the place to be, and took a brief trip along a gravel trap, but rejoined. All this time the two leading drivers were pulling away, and a hair raising battle ensued between the two of them.

Lap 1: Hill Schumacher 0.425 Barrichello 1.956 Coulthard 2.729 Panis Herbert Alesi (down from fourth) Berger

Lap after lap, the Benetton of Schumacher was all over the Williams of Hill. There was no respite for the English driver, as Schumacher made almost desperate manoevres to try and get by the Williams. Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert decided to tangle on lap 3. Alesi had dived inside the Benetton in an impossible move, touched wheels, and the Benetton was out. Alesi survived. Michael Schumacher put in a fastest lap of 1m21.416 on lap 3, and his desperation to get by increases lap by lap. By now, the Benetton was going very wide trying to get this way and that past the Williams. Brundle was up to 6th, and on lap 5 set a fastest lap of 1m21.366s. On lap 6, Damon Hill responded with a 1m21.089s.

Lap 7: Hill Schumacher 0.511 Barichello 5.227 Coulthard 5.977 Panis 6.573 Brundle 11.070

On lap 8 Montermini was lapped by the leaders after pitting. Then the 10 second penalties arrived, Barrichelo and Panis were the offenders this time. On lap 9 Hill set another fastest lap of 1m20.635s. By lap 12, the leading pair were up on the Forti of Moreno, as Hill tries to get by Schumacher makes a move to get by Hill. Amazingly, as they approach the pit straight Schumacher again tries to get by Hill in a most unusual attempt, and again fails. Lap 14, and the leaders get by the Pacific of Gachot who slows to let them by. All the time, Brundle is chasing Coulthard hard, and got a 2.5 second deficit down to 0.9 seconds in 2 laps. Local knowledge was paying off for the French team.

Lap 16: Hill Schumacher 0.482 Coulthard 9.076 Brundle 9.888 Alesi 20.164 Berger 26.055

Lap 18, and the pit stops begin, Panis came in. Lap 19, and Schumacher comes in, followed by Brundle, Coulthard, with Schumacher rejoining in 4th. Lap 20, and in came Alesi, Hakkinen. Hill came in on lap 21, and Schumacher put in a fastest lap of 1m20.239s. Lap 22, Barichello comes in for fuel and tyres. On lap 23, the Ferrari of Berger came in. The fuel nozzle wouldn't go in. No way. Time ticked away, 10 seconds, 20, 30, 40, finally it goes in and Berger leaves after a 53 second stop. Schumacher now leads the race by a tad over 9 seconds from Hill.

Lap 25: Schumacher Hill Brundle Coulthard Alesi Barrichelo Irvine Hakkinen Panis

Ferrari, disturbed by Bergers stop, dismantle the hose assembly of the refuelling rig, and fit a whole new hose. If ever there was an argument against refuelling, this must surely be it. Bertrand Gachot retires his Pacific.

On lap 32, the first drops of rain fall on Magny Cours. Hill was dropping back all the time, and now was over 12 seconds behind the dominant Benetton. On lap 33, Montermini came in for fuel and tyres, as does Brundle on 35, followed by Morbidelli. The battle for 8th between Hakkinen and Panis was really hotting up by now, with Panis all over the McLaren every way he went.

Lap 36: Schumacher Hill 12.671 Coulthard 37.133 Alesi 51.296 Brundle 54.482 Barichello 56.509

Lap 40, and the rain is starting to fall, the crowd put on their macs, and Hill comes in and puts on slicks..... Would this prove to be a mistake? The rain increased, and Benetton prepare both slicks and wets for Schumacher. Hill is now 1 second a lap faster than the Benetton with his heavy fuel load.

Lap 48, and Coulthard comes in for fuel and tyres, followed by Alesi, Hakkinen, Schumacher, and Frentzen. Meanwhile Coulthard and Barichello almost hit each other in the pits, as Coulthard tries to exit, and Barichello comes in. Lap 49, Irvine comes in and stalls, Blundell come in and out no problems, followed by Berger, and Boullion. The rain disappears, the Williams judgement is justified. Sort of.

Lap 49: Schumacher Hill 14.482 Brundle 37.622 Coulthard 48.686 Alesi 59.827 Barichello 1m04.630

On exiting the pit lane, Boullion stops, just on the track. Lap 51, and Schumacher bangs in a fastest lap of 1m20.218s. Lap 54, and Berger makes a lurid move on Blundell, Berger locks up, and fortunately the two of them don't touch. Blundell keeps his place, but the legacy of this would come later. Brundle came in for his third routine pit stop on lap 56. By now, Alesi had caught and lapped his team-mate, and was now on the tail of Blundell. Blundell, quite understandibly, thought it was Berger and blocked him in exactly the same place and way as he had a lap before......

Lap 60: Schumacher Hill 21.432 Coulthard 59.392 Brundle 1m03.969 Alesi 1m10.391 Barrichello 1m17.917

Brundle was catching Coulthard fast now, slicing multiple seconds a lap off in rapid succession. The battle would continue to the dying moments of the race. Alesi tries to lap Badoer, who blocks him, and loses time. Alesi loses more time again by flying his fist at the young Italian. Brundle was now 0.7 seconds behind Coulthard and all over him. They came to lap the Forti of Moreno, and get by now problems. One potential over taking place is lost. The race then settled down to the end, with Schumacher coasting across the line.

Schumacher Hill Coulthard Brundle Alesi Barichello Hakkinen Panis Irvine Frentzen Blundell Berger Badoer Morbidelli Salo Moreno

Hypertext version available later at URL 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


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Jean Alesi , Mika Hakkinen , Tiff Needell , Damon Hill , Bertrand Gachot
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan