F1 Blast from the Past: Championship Rivals Collide at Monza
Background & Qualifying
The twelfth round of the 1995 Formula 1 season brought the championship to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher had extended his championship lead over Damon Hill to 15 points after the German’s sensational victory at Spa.
Both title contenders had to give way to David Coulthard in qualifying however, the young Scotsman was in dominant form over the weekend and recorded a pole position time half a second faster than Schumacher’s Benetton.
Gerhard Berger gave the Tifosi some cause for optimism with third on the grid ahead of Damon Hill. Jean Alesi was fifth in the second Ferrari, with Rubens Barrichello an impressive sixth for Jordan-Peugeot.
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The 53-lap race had not even started when the drama began, polesitter Coulthard unbelievably spun off on the
formation lap exiting the Variente Ascari and was unable to take the start. Schumacher thus inherited the top starting spot and got away from the line first with Gerhard Berger challenging him on the run down to the Retifilio chicane.
Alesi was up to third with Johnny Herbert making a storming start from seventh to fourth ahead of Hill’s Williams.
Coming out of the Variente Alta, a spin from Max Papis’ Footwork on the dust triggered from Coulthard’s Williams caused chaos.
Jean-Christophe Boullion, Roberto Moreno and Andrea Montermini were all eliminated, and the race was immediately brought to a halt. Moreno’s Forti and Montermini’s Pacific were unable to take to the restart while the red flag was music to Williams’ ears, as David Coulthard was able to start the race and from his pole position.
Second time lucky
At the second start, Coulthard converted pole into the lead while Berger made an even better getaway than he done at the first start. Schumacher was relegated to third, with Hill holding his fourth position ahead of Alesi and Johnny Herbert, as the field settled into the race.
Ten laps in and Martin Brundle was out of the race after a puncture damaged the Ligier’s suspension, bitter disappointment for the Englishman after such an impressive performance in Belgium two weeks earlier.
On Lap 14, Coulthard spun off again at the Variente della Roggia, though as he re-joined it became clear that this time, driver error was not the cause for the Scotsman’s demise. A failed front-wheel bearing resulting in his sixth retirement of the year. Much to the excitement of the Tifosi, Berger took over the lead.
On Lap 24, the Austrian continued to lead ahead of Schumacher second and Hill in third. The two title contenders were lapping Taki Inoue’s Footwork as they entered the Variente della Roggia. Inoue’s presence caught out Hill, who mis-timed his braking and hit the back of Schumacher’s Benetton. For the second time in 1995, the pair had collided, and both were out of the race.
Schumacher was furious and remonstrated with Hill, as the Englishman sat in his car.
At the end of Lap 25, Berger made his one and only scheduled pit-stop, the Austrian was demoted to sixth, while Alesi took the lead. A string of pit-stops unfolded, as Alesi headed to the pits one lap later.
Barrichello, Hakkinen and then Johnny Herbert in the sole surviving Benetton led for two laps before his pit stop. Slick work by his mechanics ensured he re-joined ahead of Barrichello and Hakkinen in third position. Eventually, Alesi had regained the lead ahead of teammate Berger.
Dream turns to nightmare
The Italian Tifosi were dreaming of the first Ferrari one-two finish since 1990, but on Lap 33, their hopes were dashed when Alesi’s onboard camera parted company with the Frenchman’s car. In a cruel twist of fate, it bounced into Berger’s left-front suspension and the Austrian was out of the race.
Jordan had been enjoying a strong afternoon, but the Irish team’s race unravelled in the space of four laps when Eddie Irvine’s engine blew, and Barrichello lost fourth place when his clutch failed.
At the front, Alesi looked set for his second victory of the season, when with just eight laps remaining, it was heartbreak for the Frenchman, as the right-rear wheel bearing failed.
The double-retirement for Ferrari allowed Johnny Herbert, who after suffering so much misfortune in his career found himself having the luck fall on his side. The Englishman took his second victory of the season, over 17 seconds clear of Hakkinen in second and Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored his and the Sauber team’s first ever podium finish with third.
Mark Blundell finished fourth, putting both McLaren’s in the points for only the second time in 1995, while Mika Salo scored the first points of the season for Tyrrell in fifth. The final point was taken by Jean-Christophe Boullion in sixth, the Frenchman having overtaken Max Papis on the very last lap.
Herbert was understandably delighted with his victory, and firmly stated his claim for a drive in 1996 after been dropped by Benetton. However, the major talking point focused on his teammate Schumacher and his collision with Hill.
The championship battle was stalemate due to both retiring from the race, but Hill had some explaining to do. Schumacher apologised to Hill after Taki Inoue accepted responsibility for the incident, and the pair resumed their quest for the 1995 championship.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more content to preview your Italian GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their Italian Grand Prix Preview! George Howson hosted Tom Downey and Jawad of from Hit the Apex in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below:
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