Damon Dominates! The track was wet but drying, and there was a mixture of wets and slicks on the cars. This would prove decisive during the early part of the race. The start was clean, Schumacher lead into the first corner, leading a whole...
The track was wet but drying, and there was a mixture of wets and slicks on the cars. This would prove decisive during the early part of the race. The start was clean, Schumacher lead into the first corner, leading a whole gaggle of cars. Morbidelli was the first casualty, who came in at the start of lap 3. A quick look at the back of the car and he was off. Schumacher had the first of many lurid moments on lap 3, with Ferrari driver Berger hassling him. Meanwhile, further back, Suzuki tangled with a Minardi. At the end of lap 3 the order was
Schumacher Berger Coulthard Hill Alesi Barichello
Luca Badoer went off the track on lap 4, but swiftly rejoined the action. Schumacher and Berger started to pass backmarkers, and on lap 5 they came across the Minardi of, presumably, Badoer. Schumacher got through cleanly, but Berger was cut up, and cost him a chance at the lead. At the end of that lap Berger came in for slicks. One of the rear wheels stuck, and cost Berger a few seconds. He rejoined in 5th place. On lap 7 one of the Pacifics spun after being lapped by Schumacher, with Coulthard 2.1 seconds behind. Alesi came in for slicks on lap 8, with a storming 6.7 second stop. On lap 9, Berger set the fastest lap of the race, 1m43.44s showing that slicks were the way to go. How long would it be before Schumacher came in, only time would tell...... Schumacher's car looked unhappy on wets, and had many a lurid moment. He finally came in on lap 10, at the same time as Hill.
Coulthard took the lead, but he had yet to stop for new tyres. Alesi was the fastest man on the track with a 1m42s. Schumacher left the pit, and the car looked even more nervous. Within the lap the car slithered off the track, was launched, hit a tyre wall, bounced of that ripping the car in the process, and hit another. Schumacher hopped out unhurt. He later said that it was the car, but he wasn't sure what was wrong with it. Berger now took the lead. The lead was 11 seconds over Coulthard, then Hill and Alesi. On the same lap Alesi banged in a 1m40.9s. Hakkinen had moved up into 6th place. Positions on lap 12.
Berger Hill Coulthard Alesi Hakkinen Irivine Katayama Frentzen Salo Barichello Mansell Verstappen
Coulthard locked his breaks whilst being hassled by Alesi. Wendlinger was given a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane - the first of many during the race. Alesi banged in a 1m39, then Coulthard responded with a 1m38.131s on lap 14. The battle was quite amazing. Berger was motoring scerenly on, with a 9 second lead from Hill. The Alesi-Coulthard battle had now caught up with Hill, and on lap 16 Berger had a 12 second lead. On lap 17 Hakkinen came in for fuel. The fuel hoze stuck, and Hakkinen was stranded from what seemed a comfortable 5th place. He rejoined a long way back. On lap 17, Hill banged in a 1m36, 2 laps later Alesi a 1m35.9s. The track was drying very quickly. Hill was fast catching Berger's Ferrari, a 12 second lead became 7.1 on lap 19, on lap 20 6.8s.
On lap 22 Salo slowed, and retired. The top 6 on lap 21 were Berger Hill Coulthard Alesi Irvine Frentzen
Hill banged in a 1m33.266s on lap 21, and then came to lap Katayama, who uncharacteristically blocked him, when Hill got by Katayama re-took the lap, allowing Coutlhard to catch Hill. Eventually both got by. Berger came in for a pit stop on lap 22. He stalled, and the car was restarted. He dropped back. Hill now had the lead. Irvine decided that he would rather have the Ligier team change his tyres and refuel him. The angry Ligier team pushed him out towards the Jordan pit. Oops! Montermini was then given a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Katayama retires on lap 25 whilst in 9 place, launched from the kerb, and spinning wildly. A bad day for Ken Tyrrell. Hill now bangs in a 1m31. Alesi comes in for fuel and tyres on lap 27. It was becoming clear that Hill had the upper hand over Coulthard when it came to the traffic, but Coulthard could bang in the fast laps when the road was clear. Coulthard then locked his wheels, and spun wildly. The tyres were flat spotted, and he came in for new tyres at the end of lap 28.
Hill now had a massive 29 second lead over Coulthard. Mansell came in for fuel and tyres on lap 29. Hill, comfortably leading, banged in a 1m30.703, and came in for a stop on lap 30. A very clean 9 second stop for fuel and tyres. Panis got a 10 second penalty for, surprise surprise, speeding in the pit lane. Alesi continued to harry Coulthard, whilst Hill had a 7 second lead over the pair. Alesi's driving was spectacular, the car leaping from kerb to kerb. You would have though he was driving a touring car, not an F1 racer. Barichello came to a stop on lap 33. Mansell was now in 5th place, almost unnoticed. Hill sets another fastest lap, 1m30.381 on lap 36. Coulthard given a 10 second penalty for (guess what for). Hill sets another fast lap 1m30.080. Positions on lap 35 Hill Coulthard Alesi Berger Mansell Irvine
Hill was leading Alesi by 21 seconds on lap 42. McLaren were ready in the pit lane with tyres and a new nose cone, but neither McLaren had any damage. Mansell came in, changed tyres, and had a new nose to alter the settings. Coulthard was also in for a new nose, this was due to damage though. Mansell got back on the track and promptly he and Irvine tangled, shredding the left rear of Mansell's car, and knocking the front wing off the Jordan. Two laps and two pits stops for Mansell. Not the best start to his delayed season. Lap 45 and Hill came in for fuel and tyres. Drama - the fuel nozzel didn't want to go in, and then didn't want to come out. A 45 second lead became a 16 second lead by lap 46. Wendlinger came into the pits on lap 49 to retire. Positions on lap 50
Hill Alesi Berger Coulthard Hakkinen Frentzen
Berger banged in a 1m29,568 on lap 57, 2.5 seconds faster than everyone else on the track that lap. The Ferrari has come on in leaps and bounds. Martini holds up Hill with 4 laps to go. Only the top four were on the same lap. And then things remained static, as Hill took a commanding victory over all around him. Hill looked like a champion at Imola.
Hill 1h41m45.552s Alesi Berger Coulthard Hakkinen Frentzen Herbert Irvine Panis Mansell
-- 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