How to finish second after running back to the F1 pits

The 1995 Argentine Grand Prix was a strange one for many reasons: It was the first in Buenos Aires since the Falklands War closed its previous slot on the Formula 1 calendar, local hero Carlos Reutemann demoed a pukka Ferrari in the build-up to the event, but it was another Ferrari hero who stole the show on raceday – after a terrible start.

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2 spins
Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2 spins
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Photo by: Sutton Images

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
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Photo by: Sutton Images

Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads David Coulthard, Williams FW17 Renault
Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads David Coulthard, Williams FW17 Renault
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Damon Hill, Williams FW17 Renault
Damon Hill, Williams FW17 Renault
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault
Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads Damon Hill, Williams FW17 Renault
Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads Damon Hill, Williams FW17 Renault
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber C14 Ford
Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber C14 Ford
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Race winner Damon Hill, Williams celebrates on the podium
Race winner Damon Hill, Williams celebrates on the podium
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Photo by: Motorsport Images

Having qualified only sixth, Ferrari’s Jean Alesi didn’t much look like a contender for victory when he made an awful getaway and made matters worse by spinning at Turn 1, narrowly missing his teammate Gerhard Berger but succeeding in causing a chain-reaction crash behind him – Tyrrell’s Mika Salo being rear-ended by a flying Luca Badoer (Minardi). Ligier’s Olivier Panis went off on the outside of the corner, after contact with Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi.

More chaos ensued further around the lap, with Johnny Herbert’s Benetton clashing with Rubens Barrichello, who was in turn collected by the luckless Badoer.

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Photo by: Sutton Images

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Photo by: Motorsport Images

With cars littering the track, Alesi – whose Ferrari was stranded on the apex kerb – suddenly realized the race was being red flagged and ran back to the pits. Barrichello did likewise, having the sense to grab the seat from his stricken car before sprinting away.

Alesi explained: “I had wheelspin at the start and found myself on the inside line at the first corner, where the track was very dirty and treacherous. When I braked the car went sideways and the engine cutout.

“I was really desperate and when I saw the red flag I thought it was a gift from God.”

Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads David Coulthard, Williams FW17 Renault

Michael Schumacher, Benetton B195 Renault, leads David Coulthard, Williams FW17 Renault

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher, and Johnny Herbert

Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher, and Johnny Herbert

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

At the restart, first-time pole sitter David Coulthard led for Williams until his throttle failed on lap six, which allowed Benetton’s Michael Schumacher and Williams teammate Damon Hill ahead. Coulthard repassed Schumacher, but his throttle failed again, this time terminally.

Hill got the better of a fierce battle with Schumacher, and pulled away out front until making his pitstop. Alesi ran long in his first stint, leading for a few laps until making his stop. He rejoined in second, ahead of Schumacher but well behind Hill.

Alesi spent the remainder of the race chasing hard, but Hill stayed ahead to win by 6.4s.

Damon Hill, Williams FW17

Damon Hill, Williams FW17

Photo by: Sutton Images

Race winner Damon Hill, Williams celebrates on the podium

Race winner Damon Hill, Williams celebrates on the podium

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“I haven’t enjoyed driving a car through a grand prix as much as that before,” said Hill about his 10th F1 victory. “I had a good race with Michael, he was very difficult to pass here, but I managed to get a tow into the first corner and then with a clear bit of track I got away.

“The worry for the rest of the race was always Jean. I am delighted to have got into double figures with grand prix wins now.”

Schumacher was a distant third, and the only other unlapped runner, while Herbert took fourth in the second Benetton. Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished fifth for Sauber, ahead of Berger. Only nine cars finished the race, with Domenico Schiattarella equaling Simtek’s best-ever finish in last.

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But Alesi, whose sprint back to the pits paid off with a runner-up finish, was undoubtedly the star of the show.

“The car was very competitive and so I was really able to drive hard,” said Alesi. “Here, the 412 T2 was on the same level as the Williams. I am sure that if I had started from higher up the grid and had not lost time in some overtaking moves I could have won.

“But I can't complain as I was lucky to be in the race after the first start went so badly!”

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Jean Alesi, Ferrari 412T2

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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