The British Grand Prix on 16th of July 1995 was the eighth of the 17 rounds of the 1995 Formula 1 Grand Prix season.
It was a season that had begun full of promise for the Williams F1 team, but that optimism had taken repeated knocks Williams finding themselves being repeatedly out driven and outsmarted by Ross Brawn, Michael Schumacher and the rest of the Benetton team despite the Williams FW17 being universally recognised as the class of the field.
Heading into the British GP weekend, four Grand Prix victories had taken 1994 World Champion Schumacher to a healthy lead in the championship over Williams’ Damon Hill who’d taken two wins.
Prior to the season Williams opted to seat Scotland’s David Coulthard alongside Hill for his first full season in Formula 1, rather than go for the vastly more experienced Nigel Mansell, with whom Coulthard had shared the #2 Williams the season before following the death of Ayrton Senna, and who had made it known he was available.
In hindsight, perhaps Mansell would have been the better option – his recent experience of seeing out championships (two in two years) allied with his bullish temperament might have helped Williams cope better with Schumacher and Benetton’s often intimidatory (and often inspired) tactics that seemed to have the measure of Williams and their two drivers every time.
Williams arrived at Silverstone on the back of a successful test at the Northamptonshire circuit where Hill was a second clear of the field, with his team-mate in second ahead of Schumacher.
And so it was little surprised when Hill took his third pole-position of the season ahead of Schumacher in second and Coulthard in third.
At the race start, Hill maintained his lead, helped by Jean Alesi who darted past Schumacher into second, relegating the German into third.
This was to prove costly for Schumacher as Alesi’s Ferrari was adrift of the pace and Hill was able to surge to a 20 second lead by the time Alesi pitted on lap 18, releasing Schumacher to chase down the Williams out front.
Williams opted to pit Hill for fresh rubber on lap 22, and when he rejoined he was 9 seconds adrift of Schumacher who now led on the tyres on which he began the race, and who had chosen a one-stop strategy as opposed to Hill’s two which meant they both needed to stop once more and it looked likely that Damon would have to pass his rival on-track.
Schumacher made his sole visit to the pits on lap 31, following which, Damon charged as hard as he was able before making his own second stop ten laps later.
When he emerged, he and Schumacher were almost neck-and-neck and it looked like his charge might have paid off.
But it wasn’t to be, Schumacher inched ahead and Hill slotted in behind him.
Oh the fresher tyres, Hill was able to immediately harry the race leader, hinting at a move at Stowe before launching one up the inside at Priory.
Unfortunately for Hill, and not for the first (or last!) time, Schumacher unceremoniously closed the door, the two came together with a wallop pitching Damon’s Williams into the air, into the gravel and their afternoons were over.
This promoted Johnny Herbert in the second Benetton into the lead, but he was by no means guaranteed the win as Coulthard was within striking distance.
Alas for Coulthard, he was then informed he’d picked up a ten second stop-go penalty as a result of an earlier pit-lane speed infringement and he was forced to pull in and allow Herbert to coast home for a very popular and equally unexpected, home win – Herbert’s first of three career race wins.
It is alleged that Sir Frank Williams went to the Benetton garage post-race and apologised for the collision, referring to Hill as a ‘prat’.
It is also said that Hill’s fate for 1997 was sealed around this time, Frank committing to looking elsewhere for a partner for eventual World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, and even winning the 1996 World Championship wasn’t enough to save poor Damon from relegation to midfield stalwarts Arrows.