The cars lined up cleanly on the grid, and got away just as well. Some better than others, especially the McLaren (sporting the fetching third wing again) of Hakkinen who moved up from 5th to 3rd, and Blundell in the sister car making similar...
The cars lined up cleanly on the grid, and got away just as well. Some better than others, especially the McLaren (sporting the fetching third wing again) of Hakkinen who moved up from 5th to 3rd, and Blundell in the sister car making similar progress. Hill was pulling away well at this stage, helped by his team-mate - Coulthard - holding up the Benetton of Schumacher.
Lap 3: Hill Coulthard +2.6 Schumacher +3.621 Berger +7.330 Hakkinen +8.135 Brundle Alesi Irvine Herbert Frentzen
On lap 4, Hakkinen stopped making progress, and retired. At this stage, Schumacher was clearly fed up of waiting behind the Scot, and was pushing very hard for second place, as Hill extends his lead to over 6 seconds. On lap 7, Hill showed who was in control, with a fastest lap of 1m20.550s - and at the same time extended his lead over Coulthard to 9 seconds. And so the gap increased lap after lap.
Lap 9: Hill Coulthard +11.068 Schumacher +11.683 Berger +22.198 Brundle +22.905 Alesi +24.093
Moreno retired in his Forti. Coulthard was going very slowly, compared with his team-mate. His laps being roughly 1 second slower than Hill's. Could this be part of the Williams' strategy? Only time would tell.....
On lap 10, the positions were as follows: Hill Coulthard Schumacher Berger Brundle Alesi Irvine Herbert Frentzen Panis Blundell Barrichello Salo Badoer Lamy Katayama Papis Inoue Boullion Montermini Diniz Moreno
By this stage, Ferrari were preparing for a pit stop. Diniz, in the Forti, allowed the battling Coulthard and Schumacher through very cleanly. Coulthard, though, had a bit of a wobbly, and lost ground to the German, who took full advantage of the situation and dived through. Schumacher now had 15 seconds to find to Hill, with 67 laps to go....
Further drama further down the field. The Arrows of Taki Inoue lets go, and vast amount of smoke bellows from it. Inoue eventually gets out, and a marshal gives a quick squirt of extingusher. However, this isn't the end of the drama, as an emergency response vehicle comes to assist, and hits Inoue, who bounces off the windscreen and onto the ground. He is rushed to the medical centre, and at time of writing had a suspected fracture (of what wasn't known).
Schumacher gets the gap down to 13.9 seconds - clearly the Scot had been holding up Schumacher. Coulthard came in for a 12.8 second stop, and drops behind the battling Berger-Brundle-Alesi-Irvine train. If ever there was a recipe for excitement, here it was in full. By lap 17, Schumacher got the gap down to 12.5 seconds. Hill came in for his stop (9.6 seconds), with Schumacher following likewise with a 6.7 seconds stop. Stop. 6.7 seconds? Somehow, at the same stage of the race as Hill, he needed nearly 3 seconds less fuel (or roughly 30 litres). Could it be that the German was planning a 4 stop race? Surely not. With Benetton, though, you can never be sure.
There followed a sudden surge of pit lane activity, when all and sundry came and went with various times, though few getting by others at the same time.
Lap 18: Hill Schumacher +11.629 Alesi +17.607 Herbert +19.459 Coulthard +20.961 Frentzen +24.798
Hill, unusually, makes the better job of the traffic, cleanly scything his way through. For once, it was the German who appeared to have the trouble.
Lap 20: Hill Schumacher +8.215 Coulthard +19.914 Frentzen +26.909 Blundell +27.399 Barrichello +31.933
On lap 22, Schumacher showed he meant business, and put in a fastest lap of 1m20.506s. With it, he took Hill's lead down to 6.9 seconds. On lap 26 Schumacher came in for a 9.0 second pit stop. Eh? It was barely one-third distance, and already the German had stopped twice. What was going on? How many stops would he have by the end? Schumacher rejoined the action barely a second ahead of Coulthard. Let the battle commence.
Hill was now 30 seconds ahead of Schumacher, and he in turn was making time over Coulthard, who wasn't really troubling him. It then was reported that Benetton were having a problem with there fuel rig, and it was leaking fuel all over the pit. Could this explain the strange pit activity? On lap 34, Damon Hill set a new fastest lap of 1m20.247s. Hill's best lap was 0.25 seconds faster than Schumacher's, and was regularly 2 seconds a lap faster. Hill now had a lead of 23.7 seconds.
On lap 37, Hill came in for his second stop, and rejoined in the lead. 1.8 seconds in the lead. Hill gets by the now-lapped Panis cleanly, and Schumacher gets by him as he dives into the pit road, firther demonstrating that today the Englishman had the upperhand in the traffic.
By lap 39, Schumacher was harrying Hill for all it was worth, and got the gap down to a scant 0.809seconds. The two of them now came up on Schumacher's Benetton team mate, Herbert, who let them both through cleanly - no sign of deliberate hold ups at Chez Flavio. It was now that Alesi's bad fortune got the better of him again, as he pulled into the pit to retire. Schumacher was now desparate to get by Hill, and made many stabs at the Englishman. Hill kept ahead all the way, despite wobbling like Coulthard did earlier at the same point, suggesting a "characteristic" of the Williams chassis.
And so the Benetton made more and more lurid attempts to get by the Williams, sliding this way and that, belching smoke from tyres. Schumacher was clearly rattled.
Lap 45: Hill Schumacher +2.434 Coulthard +33.743 Blundell +1m09.547 Barrichello +1m10.415 Berger +1m16.025
On lap 47, Hill came across the Ligier of Brundle. He failed to get by at turn 1 (about the only failed move of Hill during the race), but eventually gets by later on. He was just too far back to get by earlier, the Ligier clearly a "good" machine at the 'ring. Schumacher now comes in for his third stop, after failing to get by the Ligier. Katayama retires from 13th place.
On lap 49, the Blundell-Barrichello-Beger train comes in to pit, and all leave in the same order. Lap 51: Hill Schumacher Coulthard Brundle Herbert Irvine Blundell Barrichello Berger Panis
On lap 54, Blundell retired. His engine was weak, 1500 rpm down, from the start and was getting worse. He decided the sensible thing was to retire before the thing blew. A shame. If this was a Merc down by 1500 revs, then we can only look forward to seeing it on full steam.
On lap 58, Hill pitted in 8.3 seconds, and rejoined in the lead by 11.5 seconds. Salo's Tyrrell retires. On lap 69, Brundle's car had enough, and retired. What was wrong "The engines broken, unfortunately". Was it a hard race? "Well, if it was easy, anyone could do it". Nice one Martin. In some teams, it seems that anyone can get to drive. On lap 71, Hill had a 9.7 second lead over Schumacher. Hill extended this to 11.5 seconds the very next lap. The race was well and truly under Hill's control. Irvine also retires now, and pulls into the pit.
All seemed settled, and then the whole applecart was overturned again. Schumachers car slowed to a crawl, and pulled onto the grassy verge. The dry grass burning with the hot exhaust touching it. Hill's 4 point inroad into the Germans lead, looked now to be 10 points. Further back, the Barrichello-Berger-Herbert train was hotting up (though not really delivering). Into the last lap, it was Hill, Coulthard, Barrichello. And so it was at the last corner, but the last of the three suddenly slowed, and those behind pushed Barrichello down to seventh - a bitter pill for the young Brazillian.
Hill Coulthard Berger Herbert Frentzen Panis Barrichello Badoer
This report, and season so far, available at address 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