Every so often there is one of those bizarre races where you are never quite sure what will happen next. This year we've had a couple. This added to the tally, with the most number of leaders (with little overtaking on or off the track!), and...
Every so often there is one of those bizarre races where you are never quite sure what will happen next. This year we've had a couple. This added to the tally, with the most number of leaders (with little overtaking on or off the track!), and also one of the most car-breaking races of the year. For a change, it wasn't the back-of-the-pack runners who were hitting the problems, and having only a dozen finish - it was the front running teams.
It all started to turn pear-shape on the formation lap, when David Coulthard managed to spin off. A not very good start from pole and an event he had dominated. The lights eventually turned green, after it took an eterninty for the lesser-ranked teams to form on the grid. Schumacher got away well, sandwiched by two Ferraris. Remarkably, he kept the lead, and everyone got around Retifillio. Approaching the end of the first lap it was Schumacher, Berger, Alesi, Herbert and Hill. Suddenly it seemed that all and sundry had decided to spin at the same point as Coulthard had done, and Berger had by now taken the lead from Schumacher. This was to prove academic, as the spinners (with help from rescue vehicles) blocked the track. It appeared from the replays that Montermini and Papis went in for a spot of syncronised spinning, joined by Moreno and Boullion. Less than two whole laps had run, so the race was restarted from scratch. Coulthard could start from pole again.
Coulthard got away from the grid well, with Schumacher close behind, and Berger in turn breathing down his neck, and eventually up to second. Everyone managed to get through the Retifillio. Hill was 4th, with Herbert and Alesi close behind. Coulthard banged in a 1m29.817 on the second lap. Running the spare clearly hadn't fazed him. Into lap 3, and the top 3 were covered by a couple of seconds, but with the young scot clearly in control. Coulthard Berger Schumacher Hill Alesi Barrichello Herbert Hakkinen Irvine Brundle Blundell Frentzen Panis Katayama Badoer Papis Lavaggi Inoue Salo Diniz Boullion
On lap 4, Gerhard Berger showed that he too could go fast, and put in a 1m28.305, Schumacher joined the club on the next lap with a 1m27.974s, then a 1m27.658s. Lavaggi (the sole running Pacific) spun at the chicane and was out. Positions lap 6: Coulthard Berger +1.170 Schumacher +2.187 Hill +3.554 Alesi +4.795 Barrichello +9.455
Into lap 7, and Coulthard seized his control again, and put in a 1m27.348s, and on lap 10 a 1m26.959s. Brundle, who was storming up through the field, hit a problem. The left rear tyre shredded, and flapped away like billio, the rubber ripping the bodywork to shreds. Slowly he made his way back to the pits, only to be told it was beyond repair. Brundle had made his point. Things settled down for a while, until lap 14. Coulthard found himself attracted to a gravel trap, and flew into it. Somehow he kept it running, and drove out of the trap. Berger now had the lead, as Coulthard limped his way back to the pits. The Williams team later confirmed that a wheel bearing had failed. Berger Schumacher +1.695 Hill +2.351 Alesi +5.351 Barrichello +13.989 Hakkinen +16.377
Coulthard managed to get back to the pits, only to overshoot it, and have to be dragged back. He was soon retired. Damon Hill, now sensing blood, started to make some progress on the German, who in turn was tracking the Austrian. The two tile protagonists came upon the Tyrrell of Katayama, who managed to let Schumacher through, and inelligantly closed the door on Hill. It was a very messy passing. On lap 18, Berger showed he meant business, and put in a 1m26.787s. Things were again fairly settled, with the leading 4 grouping up as we reached lap 20: Berger Schumacher +3.333 Hill +3.609 Alesi +4.990 Barrichello +16.496 Hakkinen +19.152
On lap 21, Olivier Panis added to Ligiers woes by retiring, then on lap 22 Hill and Schumacher came upon the Arrows of Takki Inoue. Schumacher got by, and Hill came to try the same. The Arrows jinked to the left to let him by, Hill went by, and straight into the back of the Benetton who was breaking for the corner. Hill looked to have mis-judged the corner, helped in no small part by Inoue. Inoue, meanwhile, continues on to see what he can do elsewhere. Into lap 23, and Berger was the first of the leaders to come in for his stop, letting Alesi lead, who then came in, whilst Irvine took Berger on the track, and Blundell came in, letting Barrichello into the lead, who then came in to let Hakkinen into the lead. Phew. Lap 27: Hakkinen Herbert Irvine Alesi Berger Barrichello Blundell Frentzen Inoue Boullion Salo Papis
Badoer decided at this point that he wasn't happy with the aerodynamics of the Minardi, and puts the nose into the wall. He came off the wall, decided he still wasn't happy, and went in again to see what difference it would make. That did it, and he was out. Hakkinen, meanwhile, came in for his stop, allowing Herbert into the lead. Now all the top men had stopped appart from Herbert, who dutifully made it easy by coming in, and rejoining in 3rd. Lap 30: Alesi Berger +0.800 Herbert +4.530 Hakkinen +13.893 Barrichello +14.951 Frentzen +28.841
Berger suddenly locked up violently, and slithered off the track, with the left front wheel dangling off the suspension with no contact to help it. Another one of the leaders out. Into lap 33, and Alesi was leading Herbert by 8.4 seconds. Barrichello started to slow down massively by lap 39, losing 5 seconds a lap. Irvine added to Jordan's woes by retiring without any warning. Papis meanwhile had quietly moved his way up to 7th..... Lap 44: Alesi Herbert Hakkinen Frentzen Barrichello
Rubens finally retired, with the car having a small fire, which was quickly dealt with by the marshals. With less than 10 laps to go, Ferrari were preparing for a fuel and tyre stop. Alesi though had other ideas, as his right rear wheel caught fire - presumably a brake disc fire. He made his way back to the pits, allowing the Benetton of Herbert to take the lead, and Papis to make the top 6. Six laps to go. Herbert Hakkinen Frentzen Blundell Salo Papis
As they came into the last couple of laps, there looked to be a real chance of Papis getting a point. Boullion, clearly embarrassed by the prospect, dutifully took Papis, and landed the final point. Herbert Hakkinen Frentzen Blundell Salo Boullion Papis Inoue Diniz