Hungarian GP report

That Damon Hill didn't win the Hungarian Grand Prix would come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his season so far. That Damon Hill was cruelly robbed of victory in an event he dominated would send most observers looking for the men in ...

That Damon Hill didn't win the Hungarian Grand Prix would come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his season so far. That Damon Hill was cruelly robbed of victory in an event he dominated would send most observers looking for the men in white coats, yet this afternoon that is exactly what happened.

Schumacher had a bad day, wrecking the new lightweight Ferrari in the morning. At the start he managed to keep the lead, but Hill was up to second from third on the grid by the first corner, and challenging for the lead, with Irvine behind. Villeneuve was already down to 5th place, with Hakkinen up to 4th. Magnussen was already off the track and heading for the pits. Diniz and a Minardi were also involved. By the end of the first lap Schumacher had a 1.7 second lead over Hill, who was 1.4 seconds ahead of Irvine. By lap 2 Damon had the gap down to 1.4 seconds, and was pushing hard, and was the fastest man on the track. Laps 3 and 4 saw Schumacher, and then Hill trade fastest laps, with Hill only 0.6 seconds behind the German at the end of lap 5, the following lap it was 0.3 seocnds. Behind the leading two Villeneuve was pushing Irvine and in a rather messy move managed to take a place. At the end of lap 8 Irvine was heading pitwards, whilst his team-mate was resisting a hard charging Hill who was only 0.27 seconds adrift....

Whilst the Arrows was unable to do much about the Ferrari on the straights, when it came to the corners (especially in the latter part of the lap) the Arrows was untouchable, and so Hill piled on the pressure again and again. In a brilliant move at the end of the pit straight Hill forced his way through the inside of the Ferrari and took the lead. By the end of lap 11, Hill was pulling away from Schumacher, and had a 2.6 second lead. By lap 12 it was 5.2 seconds. Hakkinen's McLaren was sending puffs of smoke from the car, and by the end of lap 12 was out of the race. By lap 13, Schumacher was some 8.6 seconds adrift of Hill, and into the pits, reporting a massive inbalance in the car. He was turned around in 6 seconds. By the end of lap 15, Hill found himself with a 7.9 second lead over Villeneuve, who had Frentzen a further 3 seconds behind. Coulthard, Herbert and Alesi made up the rest of the top 6 - with Alesi some 22.9 seconds behind Hill. This was an amazing result.

Villeneuve piled on the pressure onto Damon, and by lap 19 had the gap down to 3.1 seconds. Hill was up to Verstappen and ready to lap him. The gap was now only 2.7 seconds. Hill got by, and did the same to Diniz. By the end of lap 22 the gap was back up to 5.1 seconds. Further back, Alesi ran wide and let Nakano and Schumacher through. Schumacher then tried very hard, but was unable to do much about Nakano. In fact over the next few laps the Japanese driver pulled away from Schumacher. Villeneuve pitted from second place, and was turned around in 11 seconds (apparantly with a stuck wheel nut), whilst Coulthard was in and out in 7.3 seconds. The Arrows team were ready for Hills first stop.

Hill was in and out in 8.9 seconds, and rejoined the race ahead of Herbert, making him second, with Frentzen ahead, but yet to stop. At the end of lap 27, Hill was 19.9 seconds adrift of Frentzen, who still hadn't stopped. On lap 28 the gap was 22.1 seconds, though all was not well with Frentzens car, as it let out flashes of flame from the rear. He pulled into the pits and retired, though not for this reason. The Williams fuel valve refused to work correctly, and so the car could not be refuelled. Exit one Williams. Hill now had his lead back, and by lap 30 had 12.2 seconds over Villeneuve. Coulthard was was in close pursuit, with Schumacher up to 4th, and Herbert and Irvine completing the top 6. Hill was now up to lap the rear-enders - an unusual sight this year....

Barrichello's Stewart was out, and marshalls were using fire extinguishers on it. By lap 33 Hill's lead was 12 seconds, whilst Schumacher was already in for his second stop. Coulthard was now harrying Villeneuve hard, and so Hill started to pull away again. By lap 39 it was 17 seconds. Further back Fisichella was up to 6th place and pushing Schumacher hard for 5th. Fisichella tried a little too hard, and as a result spun at the end of the pit straight having made too early an attempt at the end of the previous lap. The car stalled and retired. By lap 44 Hill was pulling his lead further out, and it was now 21.1 seconds from Villeneuve, who had Coulthard close behind. Herbert was some 18 seconds adrift of third place, with Schumacher a further 10 seconds behind, who was being pushed very hard by Nakano. Obviously the Ferrari was not a happy car.

By lap 48, the order was Hill, Villeneuve, Coulthard, Herbert, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Irvine, Nakano (who pitted), Alesi, Katayama, Trulli, Berger, Diniz, Verstappen, Marques and Salo. Hill continued to push, and had a 22.4 second lead over Villeneuve as they came up to their second stops. Coulthard pitted in 7.0 seconds, and hoped it was enough to take second. Hill pitted the next lap in 7.9 seconds, with Villeneuve on 7.3 seconds. Villeneuve rejoined the race just behind Coulthard, who then ran a little too wide and lost the place he had just gained. Schumacher pitted for his third stop. Villeneuve had to work hard to fend off Coulthard, and it was rather marginal whether it could be adjudged at blocking. By the end of lap 53, Hill had 27 seconds over Villeneuve, who had Coulthard close behind, with Irvine, Herbert and Michael behind them to complete the top 6. On lap 56 came the moment everyone dreaded - an Arrows parked. This was Diniz's Arrows, however and Hill continued to push at the front.

The 5-8 train of the Schumacher brothers, Irvine, and Nakano was very close with 14 laps to go. Nakano was a different man in this race. Coulthard was suddenly off after apparantly losing his engine, and so Herbert moved up to third. Irvine was charging, and attacking Ralf Schumacher. Hill was a majestic 33 seconds ahead of Villeneuve. Marques was awarded a 10 second penalty for blocking (though who was not apparant). Hill now had a 35 second lead, and all seemed to be going his way, when on lap 75 of 77 it was reported that the throttle was failing to respond properly, followed the following lap by a lack of gear changes. Hill swayed the car to try and get it to work, but to no avail, and on the last lap Villeneuve took the lead with only a few corners to go. Hill continued and managed to salvage second place - some 9 seconds adrift of Villeneuve.

1. Villeneuve 2. Hill 3. Herbert 4. Schumacher 5. Ralf Schumacher 6. Nakano 7. Trulli 8. Berger 9. Irvine 10. Katayama 11. Alesi 12. Marques 13. Salo

-- 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 Ralf Schumacher , Tiff Needell , Damon Hill
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi