Copyright (c) 1994 by Tom Haapanen and rec.autos.sport.info. Reproduction on Compuserve prohibited. The morning warmup provided fresh evidence that Lehto had now recovered from his neck injuries. Adding to the solid fourth-place grid ...
Copyright (c) 1994 by Tom Haapanen and rec.autos.sport.info. Reproduction on Compuserve prohibited.
The morning warmup provided fresh evidence that Lehto had now recovered from his neck injuries. Adding to the solid fourth-place grid position was a fastest lap in the Sunday morning warmup. Schumacher, second in warmup, found that JJ's race car had a better setup than his own and decided to transfer that to his car. Following Lehto in the warmup were Schumacher, Hakkinen -- and David Coulthard, the young Scot more than 0.8s faster -- in his Grand Prix debut -- than his more experienced teammate in the Williams.
As the drivers started from the grid for the warmup lap, Olivier Beretta's day ended before it even got started, when the Larrouse driver's Ford HB engine seized before even lining up for the start.
As the lights turned green, Schumacher once again got the best start and the lead, but behind him there was an intense battle for position for the first turn. In the end, Hill managed to keep Hakkinen behind him, while Alesi made it past the Benetton of Lehto on the outside.
Coulthard, making his first GP start from 9th place, took advantage of the Renault's power, moving up to 8th by the first turn and then on to 6th by third lap. At the front, though, that power wasn't enough for Hill to keep up with Schumacher, the German steadily pulling away by nearly a second a lap in the early going.
Behind the leading trio, Lehto and Coulthard were being held up by Alesi's Ferrari. Though slower overall, the Ferrari pilot was able to use his car's power to his advantage to keep the other two behind him. Coulthard made one of the early pit stops to get some clean road -- but stalled his engine twice while attempting to engage the clutch, resulting in a 30-second pit stop and a one-lap deficit to Schumacher.
After Hakkinen and Lehto popped in for 7-second stops, Schumacher followed with one of his own, closely followed by Johnny Herbert in the new Lotus 109, one lap down. But after cruising out of the pits, suddenly Schumacher was quickly passed by Herbert and then Coulthard. The German's hopes of equalling Mansell's 1992 record of five consecutive wins at the start of a season were shattered when his gearbox failed to change gears. Said Schumaccher after the race: "The gearbox wouldn't select gear. I asked the team if there was anything which could be done but there was nothing."
After Hill's stop, Hakkinen gained the lead, pulling slowly away from the leading Williams, with Schumacher soldiering on in 3rd, Lehto in 4th, followed by Alesi and Brundle. Hakkinen made a surprisingly early second stop, though, giving the lead back to Hill. Hill's second stop was quite short, and he managed to retain the lead.
Coulthard's car was developing electrical problems, and it stalled repeatedly during his pit stop. Eventually he had to roll to a stop on the circuit and abandon the race on lap 32, after an oustanding Grand Prix debut. "I made a good start, was running in the top six and I felt very comfortable there. At my first pit stop I stalled the engine as it was very difficult to keep the RPMs up."
Schumacher, meanwhile, was working miracles with his crippled gearbox. Stuck in 5th gear, he was now taking full advantage of the Zetec-R engine's wide torque band, modifying his line through the corners, not only keeping the car going throughout the circuit, but actually posting lap times competitive with the Williams and McLarens.
With Hill in the lead and Schumacher resigned to following in second, it was up to Hakkinen to put up the fight for the lead. After three stops, he was in third place, followed by Lehto's Benetton and the second McLaren of Brundle. The Finn was making some headway, and felt good about his car's performance, but the Peugeot engine was destined to overheat yet again, the engine expiring in a huge cloud of smoke on lap 48.
The loss of the McLaren now gave Hill and Schumacher comfortable positions in the lead, with JJ Lehto elevated to third. However, the Finn was already experiencing a loss of engine power, and was to expire only seven laps later.
Third place appeared cursed, though: Martin Brundle got to hold on to it for only half a dozen laps. The McLaren's transmission failed on the back straight, exploding in a ball of flame and smoke, and spreading shrapnel across the track.
The Ferraris were also out of contention by this point. Berger had been tapped at the back at the first corner, and both had suffered from poor handling and chassis instability throughout the race. The new regulations had seriously unbalanced the car, and the team was unable to resolve the problem before the race. Berger had retired on lap 28 with a broken gearbox sensor, while Alesi soldiered on, unable to keep up with the leaders.
Taking advantage of the Ferrari's lack of speed, though, was Mark Blundell in the resurgent Tyrrell-Yamaha, getting his first podium finish in his career, and the best-ever finish for the John Judd-built Yamaha engines.
In the end, it was to be Williams' first victory since Monza last year. Damon Hill dedicated his victory to "to everyone at Williams, who have been through terrible times. It must go also to all the fans of Ayrton Senna."
Even so, the look of shock on Hill's face was telling when Schumacher described his problems at the post-race press conference: "At the beginning it was a bit difficult to take all the corners in 5th gear, but then I managed to find a good line and keep up lap times that were more or less good enough to compete against the others behind me." Among those amazed at the German's performance was Benetton manager Flavio Briatore, who considered the performance the best ever by him.
And so ended yet another demonstration of Michael Schumacher's undeniable talent. It is now on to Canada, where Williams must hope to resolve their handling issues, and McLaren their overheating, if they are to challenge the supremacy of Benetton.