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OTD: Hill and Williams finish two laps clear

November 12, 2019

The 1995 Formula 1 World Championship was one Williams could and perhaps should have won.

And but for the brilliance and sheer relentlessness of Michael Schumacher and his Benetton Team catching Williams short on strategy and forcing them into errors it most likely would have.

However, by the time F1 arrived in Adelaide for the final Grand Prix of the season, both Championships were sewn up in favour of the soon-to-join-Ferrari German and his team.

Australian Grand Prix qualifying will be primarily remembered for the appalling accident that so nearly claimed the life of future double World Champion Mika Hakkinen, who thankfully and incredibly made a full recovery by the time the following season started in Australia just three months thence (is that the correct use of ‘thence’?? It looks sweet, so it’s staying until I’m proven otherwise).

Come the race, David Coulthard, starting from second place alongside team-mate and pole-sitter Damon Hill, raced into an early lead (benefitting from what our American brethren might call the HOLESHOT!!) with Hill in pursuit.

Schumacher, so often the thorn in Williams’ side, slipped behind the Ferraris of Berger and Alesi at the start forcing him to overtake both cars to move him into into a somewhat distant third, but from where he could capitalise should anything happen to the two leaders.

On lap 19 Coulthard made for the pits for his first scheduled stop. Sadly for the Scot, he locked a wheel on the dusty pit lane entry, and planted his FW17 into the retaining wall, denying him a shot at the second win of his Grand Prix career.

Shuffling back behind Alesi at the first round of stops, Schumacher again found himself tucked up behind the Ferrari.

This time though, Alesi wasn’t quite as compliant. Schumacher mirrored his earlier move to dart up the inside at the hairpin but Alesi – clearly bored of being overtaken by the guy who was about to take his Ferrari seat from under him – closed the door, they made contact and it was curtains for them both.

With Coulthard, Alesi and Schumacher out, Benetton’s Johnny Herbert briefly moved into second before he misjudged the pit entry allowing Berger ahead until mechanical gremlins forced the second Ferrari retirement of the day.

Sauber’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen then assumed a distant second behind a disappearing Hill before he too retired with gearbox maladies.

Herbert had another crack at maintaining second before his driveshaft packed in, allowing Olivier Panis, by now a lap down on Hill to take up the mantle of second place with Footwork’s Gianni Morbidelli in third.

An oil leak forced Panis to slow his pace, and looked for a time like it would again force the second place man into retirement as leader Hill came round to lap him once again.

But Panis’ Ligier held together until the chequered flag, and he duly took the second second place of his career, with Morbidelli completing an unlikely podium.

Hill, helped by being the only driver in the top eight of the Championship to finish the race, and by just eight cars completing the distance, became only the second man in Formula 1 history to finish a full two laps ahead of everyone else – the other being Sir Jackie Stewart in the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix.

The result was a great end to the 1995 season for Williams and Hill who looked, at times, equally beleaguered.

Schumacher had bullied them into surrendering titles that should have been theirs, but he was off to project Ferrari, and project Ferrari take a year or two to get up to speed.

Signing off 1995 with a win was just the springboard Hill & Williams needed to launch into a 1996 that promised to deliver Hill the Championship that had eluded him two years on the bounce.


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