F1 Page – Damon Hill won his first race in two years and scored the first race victory ever for Jordan in heavy rain and almost zero visibility at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.
Unlike last year the race started without the safety car but almost immediately came to a crashing halt. David Coulthard’s McLaren suddenly veered across the track, bounced off the safety barrier and rolled to a stop on the other side of the track collecting several cars on the way and causing many more to slow suddenly. The rest of the cars behind could barely see what was happening because of the spray and piled into the tangle of wrecks. In total at least a dozen cars were involved but luckily there were no serious injuries.
When the race was restarted almost an hour later all but four of the starters — Barrichello, Panis, Rosset and Salo — were able to restart, many in their spare cars. Of the non starters only Barrichello, who had injured his arm, seemed unable to drive, the others had simply run out of cars.
On the restart Damon Hill pulled around pole sitter Hakkinen for the lead and Michael Schumacher squeezed by him on the inside at the La Source hairpin. The two touched slightly but it was enough to cause the Finn to spin straight into the path of Johnny Herbert who crashed into him finishing both of their races early.
Michael Schumacher then passed Hill and was well in the lead when he came up to the back of David Coulthard, Hakkinen’s McLaren teammate, to lap him. After following him in the rain for almost a lap Schumacher accelerated to pass Coulthard at exactly the same moment that Coulthard slowed to let him pass. Schumacher’s Ferrari slammed into the back of the McLaren and ripped off one of his front wheels.
Schumacher, who would have taken the lead in the Driver’s Championship had he won the race and claiming that he had been wrecked on purpose, then drove the rest of the lap on three wheels so that he could get back to the pits to confront Coulthard, luckily he was kept away from him.
Shortly afterwards Giancarlo Fisichella’s Benetton was destroyed when he ran into the back of Shinji Nakano’s Minardi in a very similar incident.
Jacques Villeneuve’s day ended when he slammed his Williams into a barrier and Eddie Irvine slid his Ferrari into a gravel trap.
Hill’s teammate Ralf Schumacher followed him — and team orders — to finish in second place for an unexpected 1-2 for Jordan GP with Jean Alesi finishing a close third for Sauber. Heinz-Harald Frentzen brought his Williams home in fourth with Pedro Diniz in fifth, the last car on the lead lap.
Sixth place went to Jarno Trulli who, two laps back, scored the first point of the year for Prost. David Coulthard and Shinji Nakano both five laps down were the only other cars still running at the end.
There have been many questions from both drivers and team owners as to why the safety car was not used a lot more during a race in such terrible conditions and the discussion of the safety of wet weather racing will probably rumble on for a long time.