The 1990’s saw the rise of the manufacturers and a rise in safety standards that rendered death on the track almost impossible. The decade began with the resumption of the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, although the Frenchman had switched to Ferrari, swapping places with Gerhard Berger. The 1st round of the 1990 season was the United States Grand Prix at Phoenix, where Ayrton Senna drew 1st blood, after a race-long battle with French rising star Jean Alesi in the Tyrrell. That race was notable for Berger taking pole on his McLaren debut, followed by Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi and Andrea De Cesaris’ Dallara. The Brazilian Grand Prix returned to Senna’s native Sao Paulo for the 1st time since 1980. The local favourite ended up 3rd behind team-mate Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost, who took his 1st win for Ferrari. The San Marino Grand Prix saw Williams driver Ricardo Patrese take his 1st win since 1983, after the McLarens and the Ferraris hit trouble. Next up was Monaco, where Senna won again, with Alesi taking another heroic 2nd for Tyrrell. The Canadian Grand Prix saw Senna lead Nelson Piquet, now driving for Benetton, to a Brazilian 1-2. The latter’s replacement, Derek Warwick, took his 1st point for Lotus. A tyre failure sidelined Senna at Mexico, and Prost took advantage, leading team-mate Nigel Mansell to a Ferrari 1-2. Prost proceeded to win in France and Britain as well, but he had to work for those victories, as the Leyton Houses of Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin almost gave him a run for his money in the former, and Mansell had dominated proceedings in the latter until retiring with gearbox problems. Having been completely overshadowed by Prost and still yet win a race in 1990, Mansell announced his retirement from F1 after the British Grand Prix. Senna had taken 3rd place in both of those races, and re-asserted himself with a win in the German Grand Prix, although he lost out in a race-long battle with Thierry Boutsen in the Williams in Hungary. Undeterred, Ayrton proceeded to win in Belgium and Italy, while Nigel Mansell won in Portugal. Prost led another Ferrari 1-2 in Spain, as both McLarens retired, while Alessandro Nannini took 3rd place for Benetton. The Italian then had his arm severed in a helicopter crash, ending his F1 career on the spot. His place was taken by Roberto Moreno, who had begun the season with the dying Eurobrun team, thus forming an all-Brazilian line-up with Nelson Piquet. The 1st race for Benetton’s new line-up yielded a 1-2, with Piquet winning for the 1st time since 1987, after Prost and Senna marked the Japanese Grand Prix with another title-deciding collision. This time, Senna was the Champion. McLaren and Ferrari failed to score. There was some glory for the local heroes as Aguri Suzuki took 3rd for Larrousse Lola and Satoru Nakajima took 6th for Tyrrell. Nannini was not the only driver absent from Suzuka as British newcomer Martin Donnelly suffered career-ending injuries in the previous race at Jerez, destroying his Lotus to such an extent, that only his seat was left intact. Lotus maintained an all British line-up, replacing Donnelly with the returning Johnny Herbert. Piquet triumphed once more in the season finale in Australia after Senna crashed out, thus snatching 3rd place overall from Gerhard Berger at the last hurdle. But Senna was World Champion for the 2nd time and McLaren took their 3rd Constructor’s title in as many seasons. The season had started with 19 teams, with in-coming Life joining the 18 surviving teams from 1989, but 3 of those teams keeled over before the end of the season. The 1st to go was the Onyx team, who failed to score after a promising 1989 season, briefly changing their name after selling out to Swiss businessman Peter Monteverdi then bowing out after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Next up was Eurobrun, who miraculously survived into 1990 after failing to qualify at all in 1989, after the Spanish Grand Prix. That same race would also be the last for the new Life team, who had failed to qualify for a single race, their unique W12 engine proving too underpowered and too fragile to make an impression. Another team who failed to qualify all season was Coloni, after an ill-fated partnership with Subaru, another manufacture with a unique but underpowered engine. Although 2nd generation drivers were nothing new to F1, the 199o season saw the 1st offspring of a former World Champion compete in a Grand Prix. That honour going to Gary Brabham, the middle child of 3 time Champion Jack Brabham, although he was a victim of the Life debacle and quit after 2 races to be replaced by the experienced Bruno Giacomelli after a 7 year absence. The Brabham name remained in F1 immediately after Gary’s departure, in the shape of his younger brother David, fittingly with the Brabham team.
Ayrton Senna and McLaren were to reign supreme once more in 1991, but this time it was Nigel Mansell who nearly gave the Brazilian a run for his money. The British driver had reconsidered his decision to retire, and instead returned to Williams. But the new Williams FW14, armed with a semi-automatic gearbox, was initially unreliable. Senna won the 1st race of the season in Phoenix once more, then scored a long-awaited 1st home win in Brazil despite being stuck in 5th gear and a late intervention of the rain. The San Marino Grand Prix was next and Senna led team-mate Gerhard Berger to a McLaren 1-2, as both Williams’ and both Ferraris retired. There were 1st points for Finnish drivers JJ Lehto and Mika Hakkinen and Britain’s Julian Bailey driving for Dallara and Lotus, while Minardi scored their best result with 4th place for Pierluigi Martini. Senna won again at Monaco, while Mansell opened his account with 2nd place, although it was Stefano Modena who had been the star of the show. The Italian had qualified and run 2nd in his Tyrrell before his engine blew, this followed a similar disappointment at Imola. Canada was next and Nigel Mansell led all the way as the McLarens and Ferraris hit trouble. But Williams were destined not to win, as Patrese suffered a puncture, and Mansell stalled on the last lap to be classified 6th. This handed the win to Nelson Piquet, his 23rd in all, followed by Modena and Patrese. The fledgling Jordan team scored their 1st points in Canada with Andrea De Cesaris and Belgium’s Bertrand Gachot finishing 4th and 5th. Williams finally came good at Mexico with Patrese winning from Mansell, and Senna in 3rd place. Mansell was untouchable in the French Grand Prix now held at Magny-Cours instead of Paul Ricard, taking advantage of pole-man Patrese’s poor start, and easily overpowering local hero Alain Prost to take his 1st win of the 1991 season. Senna was 3rd once more. Mansell then scored his 1st home win since 1987 at the British Grand Prix, with Senna relegated to 4th after running out of fuel on the last lap, a feat that also befell team-mate Berger on the slowing down lap. The German Grand Prix followed, and Nigel Mansell made it 3 in a row, leading his 1st Williams 1-2 while Ayrton Senna ran out of fuel on the last lap again having briefly revived his feud with Alain Prost. McLaren turned up with a heavily revised MP4-6 for the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Ayrton Senna scored his 1st victory since Monaco while Ivan Capelli scored Leyton House’s final point. There was controversy in the days leading up to the next race in Belgium, in which local favourite Bertrand Gachot was jailed after spraying a London taxi driver in the face with CS gas in Hyde Park Corner, leaving Jordan with an empty seat to fill. After much deliberation, Eddie Jordan hired German Formula 3 Champion Michael Schumacher. The young German had never been to Spa-Francorchamps, but impressed mightily on his debut, eventually qualifying 7th but his clutch failed on the 1st lap. As for the established competitors, Senna took pole and won the race despite suffering gearbox trouble, with Berger completing another 1-2 for McLaren after both Williams’ and both Ferraris hit trouble. After his stunning debut, Michael Schumacher was poached by Benetton from the Italian Grand Prix onwards, swapping seats with Roberto Moreno. It was Ayrton Senna against the Williams’ again in Monza, with Patrese and then Mansell ambushing him after Patrese’s gearbox broke. Mansell went on to win, with Senna 2nd having fought back from a long pit stop. Alain Prost kept the tifosi smiling with 3rd place while Schumacher scored his 1st points. Ricardo Patrese took pole in Portugal, but Mansell quickly gained the upper hand and led until he lost a wheel whilst leaving the pits. The wheel was eventually replaced but in an unsafe area, earning Nigel a black flag which ended his race. Patrese won from Ayrton Senna and Jean Alesi in the Ferrari. Formula 1’s last visit to Europe of the season was in Spain, now held at Catalunya, Barcelona. Gerhard Berger led the way for McLaren but Senna took the lead at the pit stops, only to be passed by Berger and Mansell, and then spinning off. The Brazilian recovered to finish 5th. Berger eventually retired, Mansell took the lead and went on to win from Alain Prost. With 2 races to go, Senna still led Mansell by 16 points but McLaren now trailed Williams by a solitary point in the Constructor’s Championship. The Spanish Grand Prix marked the debut of Italy’s Alessandro Zanardi for Jordan and the departure of AGS. Gerhard Berger was the faster McLaren again in Japan, leading from Senna and Mansell until the British driver spun into the gravel trap and retirement on lap 10. This made Ayrton Senna the World Champion of 1991, while Berger took his 1st win for McLaren, and his 1st since 1989. Britain’s Martin Brundle scored Brabham’s final points with 5th place. Alain Prost was then sacked by Ferrari and replaced by Italy’s Gianni Morbidelli, with the latter’s place at Minardi taken by the returning Roberto Moreno, his 3rd different team of the season. It looked like Prost left Ferrari at the right time, for the Australian Grand Prix was blighted by torrential rain, the conditions were almost impossible. Ayrton Senna led another McLaren 1-2 in the early stages but Mansell eventually passed Berger. The conditions gradually worsened, and many drivers spun off including Mansell and Berger. At this point, Senna and Ricardo Patrese gestured to stop the race, which it was on lap 16. The results were declared after 14 laps, the shortest Grand Prix ever with half-points being awarded for only the 4th time in history, Senna was declared the winner with Mansell 2nd and Berger 3rd. Nelson Piquet took 4th in his 204th and last race, with Patrese 5th and Morbidelli repaying Ferrari’s faith with 6th, at the end of their 1st win-less season since 1986. McLaren won their 4th straight Constructor’s crown, but Williams were in the ascendency, while the promising Jordan team finished 5th overall in their 1st season ahead of the likes of Tyrrell and Brabham and Lotus. Coloni, Leyton House and Lola all left F1 at the end of the season, along with the fledgling Lamborghini team after a troubled 1st season. Mercedes returned through their Ilmor brand with Leyton House, while the Osella team changed their name to Fondmetal and Arrows to Footwork, the latter team masterminding Porsche’s return to F1 which lasted just 6 ill-fated races.
After 4 years at the top, the McLaren Honda was no longer the car to have in 1992, as Williams dominated with their active suspension FW14B. Formula 1 returned to Kyalami in South Africa for the 1st time since 1985, where Nigel Mansell took the 1st of 5 consecutive wins, with Ricardo Patrese 2nd each time. Spain, where Patrese retired, being the only exception. Ayrton Senna had scored only 2 3rd places so far in 1992, but he managed to hold off the hard charging Mansell at Monaco where Bertrand Gachot scored Larrousse’s 1st point. McLaren triumphed again in Canada, as neither Williams finished. This time, Gerhard Berger claimed the honours as compatriot Karl Wendlinger scored March’s final points with 4th place. Status quo returned in France as Mansell led another Williams 1-2 with compatriot Martin Brundle, now with Benetton, in 3rd. That result would be repeated in Britain, as Mansell became Britain’s most successful driver in terms of wins, beating Jackie Stewart’s record of 27. Mansell took his 8th win in 10 races in Germany, followed by Senna. This put Mansell in a position to clinch the title as early as the next race in Hungary after 3 near misses. By the end of that race, Senna had won the race and Mansell the title, finishing 2nd after team-mate Patrese retired. There were still a record 5 races to go, although the Constructor’s Championship was still to be won. The next race in Belgium saw Williams claim their 1st Constructor’s title since 1987, although Mansell and Patrese were relegated to a 2-3 as Michael Schumacher took his 1st win in the Benetton, a year on from his stunning debut at the same circuit. Both the Williams drivers hit trouble at Monza, and Senna won from the Benettons, with Patrese 5th. Nigel Mansell had equalled Ayrton Senna’s record of 8 wins in a season, set in 1988, and stretched the record to 9 in Portugal. Gerhard Berger led a McLaren 2-3 after colliding with Ricardo Patrese who had been Mansell’s closest challenger in 1992, but had yet to win a race. Patrese finally claimed his 1st win of 1992 in Japan from Berger and Brundle, as their respective team-mates all hit trouble, while Minardi scored their only point of the season with Brazilian rookie Christian Fittipaldi. The reigning Formula 3000 Champion continuing the tradition of 2nd generation drivers, being the son of Wilson Fittipaldi, and nephew of double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. The final round in Australia saw a controversial collision between Mansell and Senna, with Patrese also hitting trouble, thus allowing Gerhard Berger to win his last race for McLaren. Lotus, Tyrrell, Ligier and Footwork returned to form, whilst Ferrari faded away despite the best efforts of Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli. After a promising 1st season, 1992 had been a disaster for Jordan, Stefano Modena scoring their only point before retiring along with team-mate Mauricio Gugelmin. Several other drivers also left the scene at the end of the season, along with several teams, including Dallara. The once proud Brabham team departed after the Hungarian Grand Prix, after introducing British driver Damon Hill, son of double World Champion Graham Hill. March and Fondmetal also keeled over along with the ill-fated Andrea Moda team after a totally farcical 1st season. At the end of a record-breaking season with 9 wins, 14 poles and 108 points, Nigel Mansell announced his retirement after Williams signed the returning Alain Prost for 1993 to the British driver’s chagrin. Sadly, 1967 Champion Denny Hulme died of a heart attack whilst contesting the Bathurst 1000 in Australia that Autumn, the 1st time a World Champion had died of natural causes.
The new World Champion decided to try his luck in Indy Car Racing for 1993, with Ricardo Patrese going to Benetton, Williams ended up with 2 new drivers. Having already signed Prost, Williams promoted test driver Damon Hill to the 2nd seat, after his brief sojourn with Brabham. McLaren were saddled with Ford V8 power after Honda pulled out, but managed to retain Ayrton Senna, with newcomer Michael Andretti joining from Indy Cars. The American was the son of 1978 Champion Mario Andretti. This allowed Gerhard Berger to return to Ferrari alongside Jean Alesi. The 1st race was the South African Grand Prix where Prost won from Senna, with Britain’s Mark Blundell 3rd for Ligier as Damon Hill collided with Lotus’ latest recruit Alessandro Zanardi. JJ Lehto finished 5th for incoming Sauber. Ayrton Senna scored a 2nd home win in Brazil, with Damon Hill 2nd and Michael Schumacher 3rd in the Benetton, Alain Prost retired after hitting Christian Fittipaldi’s Minardi. Johnny Herbert and Zanardi opened Lotus’ account with 4th and 6th. Next was the European Grand Prix, held for the 1st time at Donnington Park, a circuit that had not hosted a Grand Prix since before the War. It was very wet, but Senna was at the top of his game, starting 4th but leading within a lap. The Brazilian went on to win the race, followed by the Williams’, while Patrese scored his 1st points of the season. Prost struck back at Imola after Hill and both McLarens retired. Martin Brundle was 3rd in his Ligier. Prost won again in Spain after Hill retired with engine failure, followed by Senna while Andretti scored his 1st points with 5th place. Nothing could stop Senna taking his 6th win at Monaco, Damon Hill was 2nd with Jean Alesi opening his account with 3rd and Prost 4th. Alain Prost scored the 1st of 4 consecutive wins in Canada with Schumacher splitting the Williams’, while Karl Wendlinger scored his 1st points for Sauber and both McLarens retired. The Frenchman led a Williams 1-2 at home in France, then took advantage of another engine failure for Hill to win the British Grand Prix. Senna ran out of fuel on the last lap as he had in 1991, he was classified 5th with the returning Derek Warwick 6th in his Footwork. More problems for Hill in Germany, this time a puncture, allowed Prost to win from Schumacher and Blundell. Damon Hill finally came good in Hungary, scoring his 1st win, with Alain Prost and both McLarens hitting trouble. Damon was on top again in Belgium with Williams claiming the Constructor’s championship once more. The race was blighted by a huge crash for Zanardi that ended his 1993 season on the spot. The Italian was replaced at Lotus by Portuguese rookie Pedro Lamy for the last 4 races. The 1st of which was the Italian Grand Prix, where Damon Hill made it 3 in a row, followed by Alesi and Andretti as both Prost and Senna retired. There was drama on the last lap as the Minardis of Christian Fittipaldi and Pierluigi Martini collided, sending the Brazilian into a spectacular flip, thankfully both drivers made the finish unharmed. Despite his 1st podium, Michael Andretti was sacked by McLaren and replaced by Lotus refugee Mika Hakkinen for the last 3 races, the 1st of which was Portugal. Just as Nigel Mansell had quit after Williams signed Prost for 1993, Prost suddenly announced his retirement after Williams signed Senna for 1994, but the Frenchman proceeded to claim 2nd place and win the title. Michael Schumacher won for Benetton, Damon Hill finished 3rd but both McLarens retired. There was no such bad luck for McLaren in Japan though, as Senna won and Hakkinen was 3rd, with Prost 2nd and Hill 4th. There were 1st points for new-comers Rubens Barrichello from Brazil and Irishman Eddie Irvine, finishing 5th and 6th in their Jordans. The latter marked his debut with a fierce confrontation with Senna both on and off the track. Ayrton Senna triumphed once more in the season closing Australian Grand Prix, his last race for McLaren, followed by Alain Prost and Damon Hill. As well as incoming Sauber, Lola returned to F1 only to pull out after a disappointing season, despite the best efforts of the experienced Michele Alboreto and F3000 Champion Luca Badoer. Alain thus ended his career with a record 51 wins from 199 starts. He was not the only well-known driver to retire in 1993, Ivan Capelli and Thierry Boutsen retired after ill-fated stints with Jordan, Derek Warwick retired after his ill-fated return and Ricardo Patrese retired after a staggering 256 starts. After Denny Hulme’s death the previous year, F1 lost another former World Champion when 1976 Champion James Hunt also succumbed to a heart attack during the Summer.
The 1994 season began with a spate of nasty accidents that led to fears that F1 in the current 3.5 litre era had become too dangerous. This was partly down to the banning of several driver aids such as traction control and launch control in an attempt to cut costs. JJ Lehto, now driving for Benetton, got the ball rolling in pre-season testing when he crashed and injured his neck. His replacement, Dutch rookie Jos Verstappen then had a frightening collision with Martin Brundle’s McLaren, Eddie Irvine’s Jordan and Eric Bernard’s Ligier in the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix. The Irishman was banned from the next race at the new TI Circuit in Aida, Japan and held as the Pacific Grand Prix, where local hero Aguri Suzuki replaced him. That ban was then extended to 3 races so Andrea De Cesaris returned to Jordan for Imola and Monaco. It was Jean Alesi’s turn to crash in testing just before Aida, so Nicola Larini drove for Ferrari for that race and the next race in Imola. Matters came to a head at Imola when Rubens Barrichello crashed heavily in his Jordan during practice, then Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger crashed and died in qualifying. Worse was to come on Sunday when Lehto and Lotus’ Pedro Lamy collided on the grid, sending debris into the crowd, several of whom were injured. Then on lap 7, the great Ayrton Senna crashed his Williams whilst leading the race, dying of his injuries that evening. The Brazilian had yet to score in 1994, but had been on pole in every race, bringing his career tally to a staggering 65 as well as 41 wins in 161 starts. To compound the misery, a Ferrari mechanic was severely injured by a loose wheel from the Minardi of Michele Alboreto. Pedro Lamy then crashed heavily whilst testing at Silverstone, and then Sauber’s Karl Wendlinger crashed out of the Monaco Grand Prix, falling into a coma. That was the final straw. Aside from all these accidents, Michael Schumacher had dominated proceedings for Benetton, winning every race to date. The German was beaten by Damon Hill, now the lead driver at Williams, in Spain after being stuck in 5th gear. After Senna’s death, Williams promoted test driver David Coulthard, the Scotsman making his debut in Spain. Accidents were still plaguing 1994 as Italy’s Andrea Montermini crashed in practice for his F1 debut, driving for the new Simtek team in place of Ratzenberger. Schumacher won again in Canada and France, the former marking Andrea De Cesaris’ 200th race as he now with Sauber, and the latter marking the return of 1992 Champion Nigel Mansell with Williams. The Brit was now the reigning Indy Car Champion. Damon Hill took pole for his home Grand Prix which was the next race, and won from Schumacher, who was then disqualified for overtaking Hill on the parade lap and ignoring the black flag. There was absolute carnage at Hockenheim with 10 cars being eliminated before the 1st corner, with both Hill and Schumacher hitting trouble, Gerhard Berger took advantage and scored Ferrari’s 1st win since 1990 followed by the Ligiers of newcomer Olivier Panis and Eric Bernard, with Erik Comas taking Larrousse’s final point. The race had also seen Jos Verstappen survive a massive fireball during his pit stop. McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen was banned from the next race in Hungary, for triggering the Germany carnage, and replaced by the returning Philippe Alliot. Schumacher won from Damon Hill, and he won again in Belgium, only to be disqualified once more. Damon thus claimed his 2nd Spa win in a row, he also won in Italy and Portugal as Schumacher was banned from these races for his actions at Silverstone, leading team-mate Coulthard to a Williams 1-2 in the latter. Next was the European Grand Prix, now held at Jerez in Spain where Mansell came back once more, it was Schumacher who triumphed after his 2 race ban with Damon Hill 2nd. A very wet and chaotic Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka followed, with Hill beating Schumacher, as several drivers crashed out. So on to the final round in Australia, Schumacher led Damon by 92 points to 91, and ultimately won his 1st title in spectacular and controversial fashion. On lap 35, Michael Schumacher ran wide into the barrier, damaging his Benetton enough to end his race on the spot. Damon Hill saw what had happened and tried pass the German, but Schumacher turned in on Damon and the pair collided, Schumacher’s car careering into the tyres. Damon’s car had also been damaged in the incident and retired in the pits. This left pole-man Nigel Mansell fighting with the Ferraris, and it was the Brit who triumphed, claiming his 31st and final win in his last race for Williams. With Benetton failing to score, Williams claimed their 3rd straight Constructor’s title, capping a season of triumph and tragedy for the Grove based team. Italian drivers Michele Alboreto and Andrea De Cesaris retired from F1 at the end of the season, the latter after 208 starts and no wins, while the famous Lotus team finally keeled over along with Larrousse. 1994 saw the arrival of Simtek and Pacific. Both teams surviving their 1st season with great difficulty.
After a highly tragic and controversial 1994 season, 1995 saw the arrival of the new 3 litre era, in an attempt to make F1 safer. The calendar featured 17 races for the 1st time since 1977 with the return of Argentina after a 14 year absence. The season began in Brazil however, where defending champion Michael Schumacher won from David Coulthard who was now driving for Williams full-time, although Finnish driver Mika Salo briefly shone for Tyrrell. Damon Hill then triumphed in Argentina and a heavily revised Imola. Schumacher struck back in his Benetton, now also running on Renault power, in Spain and Monaco. Both Williams’ retired in Canada, and Schumacher faded to 5th, allowing Ferrari’s Jean Alesi to take his 1st win on his 31st birthday. This win made Alesi a hero in both Canada and Italy for he was driving the number 27 Ferrari that had previously been an icon in the hands of the late Gilles Villeneuve. Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine scored Jordan’s 1st double podium with 2nd and 3rd. Schumacher won from the Williams’ in France, but a collision with Hill in Britain allowed his new team-mate Johnny Herbert to score his 1st win, and a 2nd home win in as many seasons for the Brits. Schumacher then triumphed at home in the German Grand Prix after Hill spun off on the opening lap. It was Schumacher’s turn to suffer misfortune in Hungary as fuel pump failure relegated him to 11th, allowing Hill to lead a Williams 1-2 from Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari. Japanese driver Taki Inoue had a close encounter with the medical car after retiring his Footwork, this followed a similar incident at Monaco, where the course car had hit him! A heavy shunt in practice left Schumacher languishing in a lowly 16th position on the grid at Spa. But a great comeback drive and well thought out pit strategy enabled Schumacher to win the Belgian Grand Prix after a thrilling battle with Damon Hill who was 2nd followed by Martin Brundle’s Ligier. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza was basically Silverstone re-visited as Schumacher and Hill once again collided with each other and Herbert won in the 2nd Benetton from Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren and Heinz Harald Frentzen’s Sauber, the 1st podium for the Swiss team. After several near-misses, David Coulthard finally scored his 1st win in Portugal from Schumacher and Hill. The European Grand Prix was next and was held at its 3rd circuit in as many seasons, this time it was the Nurburgring, back on the calendar after a decade’s absence. It marked another home win for Michael Schumacher after a race long battle with Jean Alesi, and effectively another title after Damon Hill crashed out again. Schumacher secured his 2nd title in a row with another win in the last ever Pacific Grand Prix at Aida, followed by Coulthard and Hill. Schumacher claimed his 9th win of the season on F1’s 2nd visit to Japan at Suzuka, equalling Nigel Mansell’s record. With Herbert finishing 3rd and both Williams’ retiring, Benetton secured their 1st Constructor’s title, and the 4th in succession for Renault. The new rules had certainly reduced the number of nasty accidents, but tragedy very nearly returned at Adelaide when Mika Hakkinen crashed heavily in his McLaren, the Finn’s life only being saved by the fast reaction of the medical crew. The Australian Grand Prix proved to be a race of attrition, with many of the drivers pulling out, mainly by crashing out. Indeed Damon Hill was the only one of the front-runners to survive the carnage, winning for Williams by 2 whole laps, such was the attrition rate. This winning margin equalled the record held by Jackie Stewart. Olivier Panis and Gianni Morbidelli scored lucky podium finishes for Ligier and Footwork, while David Coulthard infamously crashed into the pit wall on entry, with Schumacher colliding with Alesi and Portugal’s Pedro Lamy scoring his 1st point in a Minardi. This season sadly saw the departure of Simtek and Pacific, the former after just 5 races. At the same time, the Forti team arrived, with Brazil’s Pedro Diniz and Roberto Moreno at the wheel. After a part-time return with Williams in 1994, Nigel Mansell made an ill-fated full-time return with McLaren. The 1992 Champion retired once more, this time for good, after just 2 races bringing his final tally to 187. Juan Manuel Fangio, who had won a record 5 World titles in the 1950’s, passed away at the end of the season.
The 1996 season brought further changes to the rules as the FIA’s mission to make F1 safer continued. There was also a spate of driver changes, with many of the 11 surviving teams from 1995 changing their line-ups, the most notable of these being Michael Schumacher switching from Benetton to Ferrari. Fittingly, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger went the other way and joined Benetton, as Johnny Herbert switched to Sauber. With David Coulthard switching to McLaren alongside the fully recovered Mika Hakkinen, Williams hired the reigning Indy Car Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill remaining as lead driver. Having hosted the final round since its inception in 1985, Australia now hosted the 1st round and was now held at Melbourne, where Gilles Villeneuve’s son impressed by taking pole position for his debut. Only Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann had previously achieved this feat. It was Damon Hill who led a Williams 1-2 in the race however, as Jacques suffered an engine problem in the closing laps, Eddie Irvine finished 3rd on his Ferrari debut after Schumacher retired. The race was notable for a nasty accident that befell Martin Brundle, now driving for Jordan, at the start of the race. Damon then dominated in a soaking wet Brazilian Grand Prix, with Jean Alesi 2nd after Villeneuve spun out, a fate that also befell local favourite Rubens Barrichello after starting on the front row in his Jordan. Hill led another Williams 1-2 in Argentina, as Villeneuve capitalised on a seemingly endless tussle between Schumacher and Alesi up ahead, Alesi taking 3rd while the double World Champion retired again. That race was notable for Brazilian Pedro Diniz surviving a collision with Italy’s Luca Badoer, driving for his old team Forti, only for his Ligier to catch fire due to a fuel leak. The European Grand Prix was held as early as the 4th round in 1996, and it was Villeneuve who scored his 1st win for Williams, narrowly beating Schumacher in the German’s home Grand Prix with Hill relegated to 4th after a poor start. It was a mere flash in the pan for Damon as he won from Michael Schumacher in Imola while Jacques Villeneuve retired. There followed a chaotic race at Monaco, where Schumacher took pole, only to crash out on the 1st lap leaving Hill to dominate proceedings. The Brit was destined not to win however, as his engine blew, handing the lead to Alesi in the Benetton. But the French-Sicilian also retired, sidelined by suspension problems, leaving Ligier’s Olivier Panis leading the race. The Frenchman had fought his way up from 14th on the grid, and proceeded to claim his 1st win and Ligier’s 1st since 1981, with David Coulthard 2nd for McLaren and Johnny Herbert leading a 3-4 for Sauber. The carnage didn’t stop there however, as Frentzen pulled into the pits and Hakkinen and Salo’s Tyrrell collided with Irvine, all on the last lap! Thus, only 3 drivers out of the 7 who were classified crossed the finish line, an all-time low. Neither Williams made the finish as Villeneuve collided with Luca Badoer’s Forti. The Spanish Grand Prix was next, and in an absolute monsoon, Michael Schumacher took his long-awaited 1st win for Ferrari. The German dominating, having fought back from a dreadful start, followed by Alesi and Villeneuve as Hill crashed out. There were no points for Panis after his win in Monaco, but the Ligier team still scored thanks to Pedro Diniz, who scored his 1st point. Damon Hill returned to winning ways in Canada at local hero Jacque Villeneuve’s expense, with Jean Alesi 3rd after both Ferraris retired. Hill led another Williams 1-2 in France, followed by the Benettons, then the McLarens. Both Ferraris retired again, Schumacher not even making the start having taken pole position, as his engine failed on the parade lap. Ferrari’s reliability let them down again in the British Grand Prix, while Jacques Villeneuve avenged his defeat at the hands of Damon Hill in Canada by winning, after the local favourite made a poor start and spun off. The German Grand Prix was next, and although Schumacher was now with Ferrari, it was Benetton who led in the early stages. Gerhard Berger led a Benetton 1-2 after pole-man Hill made another poor start, but the Brit cleared Alesi at the pit-stops and was chasing down Berger when the Austrian’s engine blew a few laps from home, handing the win to Hill. It was Damon’s 1st win in Germany, Jean Alesi finished 2nd followed by Villeneuve, local hero Schumacher was 4th. A well executed pit strategy enabled Jacques Villeneuve to lead his 1st Williams 1-2 after a poor start in Hungary but it was Michael Schumacher who dominated proceedings at Spa and Monza for Ferrari. Damon Hill was relegated to 5th in Belgium after a poor start and a totally chaotic race while Jacques Villeneuve was 2nd, but Williams had reclaimed the Constructor’s title after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Neither Williams scored in Italy as Hill crashed out and Villeneuve was 7th, but the French-Canadian led another Williams 1-2 in the last ever Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril from Schumacher and Alesi. Thus, with 1 race to go, only Hill or Villeneuve could win the title. Hill had 87 points to Villeneuve’s 78, so Jacques had to win the Japanese Grand Pix at Suzuka with Damon not scoring, and boosted his chances by taking pole. But the pressure quickly got to Villeneuve for he fluffed the start, and Damon took advantage, leading all the way. Jacques fought back but it was all over when his rear wheel came loose and he retired. Damon Hill was the 1996 World Champion, and the 1st son of a former World Champion to do so, and proceeded to win the race as well. Michael Schumacher finished 2nd followed by Mika Hakkinen, with Berger 4th in his Benetton after a collision with Irvine. Jean Alesi had also crashed out earlier on, so Ferrari narrowly beat Benetton to 2nd overall, a long way behind Williams. Martin Brundle finished 5th for Jordan in his 158th and last Grand Prix. This season marked the departure of the Forti team after the British Grand Prix, their demise precipitated by the arrival of the new 107% qualifying rule, meaning any driver(s) who were not within that margin would not qualify. The start procedure now consisted of 5 red lights going out instead of a red-green system and race numbers were now decided on the outcome of the previous year’s Constructor’s title.
The 1997 season saw plenty of driver changes as defending Champion Damon Hill had been sacked by Williams and replaced by Heinz Harald Frentzen. After much deliberation, Damon eventually joined Arrows, who had split with Footwork and reverted back to their original team name. Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton remained the same. There were changes all down the grid to the extent of some teams changing hands, such as Ligier who were now known as Prost Grand Prix after 4 times World Champion Alain Prost bought them out, retaining Olivier Panis as lead driver with Pedro Diniz going to Arrows and replaced by Japanese rookie Shinji Nakano. 2 new teams entered the fray in 1997, Stewart Grand Prix run by Sir Jackie Stewart with Rubens Barrichello and Dane Jan Magnussen as the drivers, and Lola. But while Stewart came fully prepared, Lola did not and floundered after just 1 race, while Bridgestone tyres entered alongside the existing Goodyear tyres. The Australian Grand Prix saw a surprise win for David Coulthard’s McLaren, their 1st since 1993, after both Williams drivers hit trouble while poor Damon Hill didn’t even make the start. Jacques Villeneuve proceeded to win in Brazil and Argentina, hounded by the ever improving Olivier Panis in the latter race that also saw a promising 1st podium for German rookie Ralf Schumacher. The German was driving for Jordan and was the reigning Formula Nippon Champion as well as Michael Schumacher’s younger brother. A collision with Barrichello sidelined the older Schumacher. Jacques Villeneuve failed to finish at Imola, allowing Heinz Harald Frentzen to score his 1st win in the 2nd Williams, the Ferraris hounding him all the way. A very wet Monaco Grand Prix followed and Michael Schumacher dominated in his Ferrari with team-mate Eddie Irvine in 3rd. Having failed to even finish a race up till this point, Rubens Barrichello scored a shock 1st podium for Stewart with 2nd place, while 1996 winner Olivier Panis finished 4th and Mika Salo scoring Tyrrell’s final points in 5th. Both Williams drivers had retired from Monaco but Jacques Villeneuve struck back in Spain, winning from Olivier Panis and Jean Alesi’s Benetton. Villeneuve crashed out of his home Grand Prix in Canada, and after David Coulthard stalled in the pits, Michael Schumacher went on to win. The race was stopped 54 laps in after Olivier Panis crashed heavily in his Prost and broke his legs although team-mate Shinji Nakano scored his 1st point. Michael Schumacher won again in France, followed by Frentzen and Irvine, with Villeneuve 4th. The French-Canadian won the British Grand Prix once more after Mika Hakkinen’s engine blew, followed by the Benettons of Jean Alesi and newcomer Alexander Wurz. The young Austrian was standing in for his unwell compatriot Gerhard Berger and had made his debut in Canada. Defending Champion Damon Hill scored his 1st point for Arrows. The German Grand Prix marked the return of Gerhard Berger, and the Austrian proceeded to take pole and take his 1oth win and Benetton’s 27th, the last for both driver and team, with local favourite Michael Schumacher in 2nd place, but it was Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella in the Jordan who provided any real challenge, that is, until his tyre burst. After another double DNF for Williams, Jacques Villeneuve proceeded to win the Hungarian Grand Prix for the 2nd year running, but he was made to fight to fight for this win. The race looked set to go to Damon Hill, who had qualified an excellent 3rd in his Arrows and overpowered Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher and was on course for Arrow’s 1st win after 19 seasons when his gearbox faltered 3 laps from home, the Briton demoted to 2nd on the last lap. Johnny Herbert made it 2 Brits on the podium in his Sauber. Michael Schumacher triumphed in the wet at Spa in Belgium from Giancarlo Fisichella and Heinz Harald Frentzen but was demoted to 6th with Jacques Villeneuve just ahead of him at Monza where David Coulthard won from Jean Alesi. Formula 1 then returned to Austria after a 10 year absence, although Jacques Villeneuve won from DC, it was Italian newcomer Jarno Trulli who stole the show. The Italian had started the season with Minardi but switched to Prost after Olivier Panis’ accident and had already scored a 4th at Hockenheim but an impressive performance in Austria saw him lead for 37 laps until his engine blew. The Stewarts of Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen also shone until hitting trouble. Jarno Trulli’s impressive performance was to be his last for the time being as Olivier Panis returned for the Nurburgring, now known as the Luxembourg Grand Prix where Jacques Villeneuve triumphed after Michael Schumacher collided with his younger brother Ralf and Fisichella, the McLarens had looked threatening until both retired. Ferrari struck back in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka with Michael Schumacher winning, Eddie Irvine was 3rd but had led the early stages while Villeneuve faded to 5th, only to be disqualified for ignoring the yellow flags in qualifying. The final round was the European Grand Prix, held at Jerez in Spain for the 1st time since 1994, with Michael Schumacher leading Jacques Villeneuve by a single point. It was Jacques Villeneuve who took pole, although his time was identical to those of Michael Schumacher and Heinz Harald Frentzen, with Damon Hill 4th in his Arrows. Michael Schumacher got the better start, Villeneuve dropped to 3rd but quickly demoted Frentzen and proceeded to charge after Michael Schumacher, and on lap 48 the French-Canadian made his move. In an attempt to replicate his collision with Damon Hill that had won him the 1994 title, Michael Schumacher turned in on Villeneuve and they made contact, this time the German’s plan failed and his Ferrari was sent careering into the gravel trap while the Williams continued. Jacques Villeneuve was now leading and only needed to finish in the points to become World Champion so in the closing stages, he gave up his position to Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren and allowed David Coulthard to make it a McLaren 1-2, the Finn thus taking his 1st win in his 96th race and the French-Canadian taking the title as well as the final podium. Williams had already won their 9th Constructor’s title and their 5th in 6 seasons, at the end of which their long-time partners Renault pulled out of F1, leaving both Williams and Benetton out in the cold. After 210 Grands Prix over 14 seasons, Gerhard Berger retired from F1, marking his departure with 4th at Jerez. Only Ricardo Patrese had racked up more starts than the Austrian. Japanese driver Ukyo Katayama also retired after 5 troubled seasons with Larrousse, Tyrrell and Minardi, racking up 95 starts while Tyrrell were bought out by BAT (British American Tobacco) and would race under their current identity for just 1 more season. Michael Schumacher’s clash with Jacques Villeneuve caused so much controversy that he was thrown out of the Driver’s Championship but allowed to keep his points, meaning that his compatriot Heinz Harald Frentzen completed Williams’ 2nd 1-2 in as many seasons.
Narrower cars and grooved tyres were the buzz words in 1998, and the team who were most prepared for the new rules were McLaren, now running on Bridgestone tyres rather than Goodyear. Thus, the McLarens were untouchable in the season opening Australian Grand Prix with Mika Hakkinen winning from David Coulthard, although the Finn had briefly dropped to 2nd after a pit-stop error and DC controversially let him back through. Defending Champion Jacques Villeneuve was 5th while team-mate Heinz Harald Frentzen was 3rd. Hakkinen led another McLaren 1-2 in Brazil with Michael Schumacher 3rd after retiring in Australia. Michael Schumacher managed to overcome the McLaren challenge on slowly improving Goodyears in Argentina despite making contact with David Coulthard who finished 6th, with Mika Hakkinen 2nd and Eddie Irvine 3rd. A gearbox problem sidelined Hakkinen at Imola while David Coulthard went on to win from the Ferraris but the Finn led another McLaren 1-2 in Spain with Michael Schumacher 3rd. Rubens Barrichello finshed 5th in his Stewart while Benetton’s latest signing Giancarlo Fisichella collided controversially with Eddie Irvine’s Ferrari. The dying Tyrrell team suffered the ignominy of 1 of their drivers failing to qualify. That driver was Brazilian driver Ricardo Rosset, and he failed to make the grid again at Monaco, where Mika Hakkinen triumphed once more. After their collision in Spain, Fisichella and Irvine finished 2nd and 3rd with Arrows’ latest signing Mika Salo taking 4th with team-mate Pedro Diniz 6th, Michael Schumacher faded to 10th and David Coulthard’s engine blew. That race was marred by a nasty shunt for Alexander Wurz, now driving for Benetton full-time, after a spectacular battle with Michael Schumacher. The Austrian had an even bigger shunt in Canada after a collision with Sauber’s latest signing Jean Alesi, and Jarno Trulli, now driving for Prost full-time. But thankfully the race was stopped, and Michael Schumacher went on to win from Fisichella and Irvine and the recovering Wurz while both McLarens retired and Stewart scored a 5-6, ironically replacing Jan Magnussen with Jos Verstappen thereafter. Jacques Villeneuve led his home Grand Prix briefly while Damon Hill, now driving for Jordan, ran as high as 2nd before retiring. Michael Schumacher then led Ferrari’s 1st 1-2 since 1990 in France with Mika Hakkinen in 3rd, DC was relegated to 6th after fuel-rig problems at his pit-stop, Jos Verstappen marked his debut for Stewart by stalling on the grid. A very wet British Grand Prix saw many drivers spin-off including local favourites David Coulthard, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert’s Sauber, but Eddie Irvine kept going in his Ferrari and finished 3rd. It was Michael Schumacher who triumphed after controversially receiving a stop-go penalty with 3 laps to go, coming into the pits to serve his penalty on the last lap, with Mika Hakkinen 2nd. Michael’s younger brother Ralf Schumacher scored Jordan’s 1st point of the season from the back of the grid. Qualifying for the next race in Austria was equally very wet, and in all the confusion, Giancarlo Fisichella took his 1st pole position with Jean Alesi alongside only for the 2 drivers to collide on race day. It was Mika Hakkinen who triumphed from 3rd on the grid, with David Coulthard pulling off an almighty comeback from 14th and 2 collisions to finish 2nd, Michael Schumacher led a Ferrari 3-4. Mika Hakkinen led another McLaren 1-2 at Hockenheim as Michael Schumacher struggled on home soil and could only salvage 5th ahead of his brother Ralf. Jacques Villeneuve got his Williams onto the podium and Damon Hill scored his 1st points for Jordan. Michael Schumacher won a tactical battle with the McLarens in Hungary, surpassing Nigel Mansell’s tally of 31 wins in the process, with David Coulthard 2nd. Once again, Villeneuve was 3rd and Hill 4th with Frentzen 5th, relegating Hakkinen’s problematic McLaren to 6th. The Belgian Grand Prix was extremely wet and carnage filled. The drama began when David Coulthard spun and crashed in front of a charging field at the 1st corner, culminating in F1’s biggest ever pile-up, eliminating 13 cars all in 1 go! The race was immediately stopped and resumed with only 18 starters. A great start from 3rd placed Damon Hill saw him lead into the 1st corner, Michael Schumacher followed him through and collided with Hakkinen who was then collected by Johnny Herbert, eliminating the Finn while Coulthard collided with Alexander Wurz, relegating the Scot to the tail of the field. Up front, Damon Hill led in his Jordan but Michael Schumacher eventually caught and passed him. Michael Schumacher was heading for his 4th win in a row at Spa until he came up to lap the recovering DC, blinded by the spray, he crashed into the McLaren. The German nursed his 3-wheeled Ferrari back to the pits followed by the Scot whom he angrily tried to confront. Coulthard continued, while Damon Hill was now back in the lead and proceeded to score his 22nd and last win and the 1st for Jordan after 7 seasons with Ralf Schumacher completing a 1-2, and Jean Alesi 3rd for Sauber despite further carnage in the form of Giancarlo Fisichella crashing into Shinji Nakano’s Minardi. With so many front-runners pulling out including Villeneuve and Irvine, Heinz Harald Frentzen took 4th followed by Pedro Diniz and Jarno Trulli’s Prost. Michael Schumacher took pole from Jacques Villeneuve at Monza, but it was Coulthard who led the early stages ahead of Hakkinen. But when Coulthard’s engine blew, Hakkinen was blinded and passed by Schumacher. Michael Schumacher led another Ferrari 1-2 with his brother Ralf in 3rd, Hakkinen slumped to 4th with brake problems followed by Alesi and Hill. By this time, Hakkinen and Schumacher were now tied on 80 points apiece. But Hakkinen re-asserted his position at the top by beating Schumacher on his home circuit at the Nurburgring. At Suzuka however, Schumacher was on pole, but the 1st start was aborted when Jarno Trulli stalled his Prost. Then as luck would have it, Michael Schumacher stalled on the 2nd start! The German was relegated to the tail of the field along with Trulli, and while Hakkinen went on to win the race, Schumacher got to as high as 4th before a rear tyre failure ended his race and his season, thus handing the title to Hakkinen. With David Coulthard 3rd behind Eddie Irvine, McLaren also won the Constructor’s championship, their 1st since 1991 and the 1st ever for Bridgestone. Damon Hill won a close battle for 4th with the Williams’ to clinch 4th place overall for Jordan. The race marked an ignominous swansong for Tyrrell as Ricardo Rosset racked up his 5th non-qualification of the season and his Japanese team-mate Toranosuke Takagi collided with fellow new-comer Esteban Tuero in the Minardi. The Argentinian controversially announcing his retirement after just 1 season.
Not much change was expected for the 1999 season, only that Goodyear had pulled out and that a new team called British American Racing (BAR) would take the place of Tyrrell, set up by Jacques Villeneuve’s manager Craig Pollock with the French-Canadian as lead driver. There was, however, the high-profile return of Alessandro Zanardi. The Italian had signed for Williams as the reigning double Champ Car Champion. The 1st race in Melbourne, Australia looked set to see defending Champion Mika Hakkinen lead a McLaren 1-2 in both qualifying and the race, but both he and David Coulthard retired while Michael Schumacher once again stalled on the grid. This allowed Eddie Irvine to score his 1st win at his 82nd attempt, followed by Heinz Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher who had swapped teams with each other, Spanish new-comer Pedro De La Rosa marked his debut with his 1st point for Arrows. Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher made amends in Brazil, finshing 1st and 2nd, David Coulthard retired again while Eddie Irvine faded to 5th. The real hero of the day was local favourite Rubens Barrichello’s Stewart, qualifying 3rd and leading briefly before his home-race jinx intervened, while Italian driver Luca Badoer, returning to F1 with Minardi, suffered a hand injury that ruled him unfit to race so he was replaced by Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin. The Prost test driver would never race again. Brazilian rookie Ricardo Zonta crashed heavily in testing for his home race and broke his foot and was replaced at BAR by the returning Mika Salo. After Mika Hakkinen crashed out at Imola, Michael Schumacher prevented David Coulthard from repeating his 1998 success to score a home win for Ferrari with the impressive Rubens Barrichello 3rd and Damon Hill in 4th while Eddie Irvine retired for the only time that season. Monaco saw Schumacher lead a Ferrari 1-2, relegating poleman Mika Hakkinen to 3rd while DC retired again, the Benettons of Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz inheriting a 5-6 after Barrichello crashed out late on. Hakkinen led a McLaren 1-2 and a Ferrari 3-4 in Spain but Jacques Villeneuve shone brightly in his BAR, seperating the 2 teams before retiring once more. There were no points for Jordan after Frentzen retired and Hill lost the final point to Jarno Trulli’s Prost. A carnage-filled Canadian Grand prix saw another win for Hakkinen, with Fischella 2nd and Irvine 3rd, after no less than 3 former Champions, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villenueve planted their cars in the wall at Turn 15, earning it the title ‘The Wall of Champions’. Ricardo Zonta also ended up in the infamous wall on his return to F1, there were further accidents involving Frentzen, Barrichello, Trulli and Jean Alesi’s Sauber. Johnny Herbert scored his 1st points for Stewart and Pedro Diniz, his 1st for Sauber, with Coulthard out of the points. A very wet French Grand Prix saw Barrichello take Stewart’s 1st pole, followed by local heroes Jean Alesi and Olivier Panis’ Prost, then Coulthard, Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. It was Frentzen who triumphed in the end with Hakkinen 2nd after starting 14th and Barrichello 3rd , the Ferraris scored a 5-6. After another retirement and a disastrous start to the season, Damon Hill promptly announced his retirement from F1, intending to bow out after the British Grand Prix. That race began with drama as Michael Schumacher crashed heavily at Stowe Corner and broke his leg, Mika Hakkinen was unable to take advantage as his wheel came loose and put him out, allowing David Coulthard to lead Eddie Irvine to a British 1-2 in their home race. Having briefly led the race, Damon Hill finished 5th and promptly decided not to retire immediately after all, behind team-mate Frentzen. With Schumacher out of action, Eddie Irvine assumed the role of team-leader at Ferrari, while Finland’s Mika Salo was hired as a replacement once again. A collison between the McLarens allowed Irvine to take advantage and beat them in Austria while Alexander Wurz marked his home Grand Prix with a 5th place. Further problems for McLaren in Hockenheim saw Coulthard relegated to 5th after a puncture and Hakkinen crashing heavily after suspension failure. Luckily the Finn was unhurt but it allowed Ferrari to score a 1-2, Eddie Irvine assuming the lead from Mika Salo after the Finn gave in to team-orders while leading the race. Local heroes Heinz Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher finished 3rd and 4th in Michael Schumacher’s absence. The McLarens kept their noses clean in Hungary as Hakkinen led a 1-2 with Irvine 3rd, followed by another McLaren 1-2 in Belgium with Coulthard winning after some more argy-bargy with Hakkinen. Frentzen beat Irvine into 4th while Damon Hill scored his final F1 point. Both BARs crashed spectacularly at Eau Rouge in qualifying but Villeneuve finally reached the finish. Hakkinen now led Irvine by just 1 point and looked set to extend that lead at Monza. But the Finn misjudged the 1st chicane and spun out of the lead, leaving him unconsolable and allowing Frentzen to score another win for Jordan, his 3rd and last in all. Ralf Schumacher was 2nd and Mika Salo 3rd, while Irvine was 6th behind Coulthard, putting him tied with Hakkinen on 60 points each. The European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was a wet-dry race and a very chaotic one. Poleman Frentzen, both McLarens, both Ferraris, Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella all took turns at leading the race until finally, the high rate of attrition left Johnny Herbert leading and he won. This was Johnny’s 1st win since 1995 as well as his 3rd and last. Jarno Trulli split the Stewarts to take his 1st podium. As there hadn’t been enough heartbreak already, Jacques Villeneuve retired in the closing stages while on course for BAR’s 1st point and Luca Badoer, by now F1’s most experienced non-scorer, retired from an almost certain 4th place. Thankfully, his Spanish team-mate Marc Gene saved the day for Minardi by scoring his 1st point. Eddie Irvine failed to score so Hakkinen was back in the lead of the championship. However, the 1st ever Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang saw Eddie Irvine reassume command by leading a Ferrari 1-2 after the returning Michael Schumacher let him through as Salo had done at Hockenheim, Hakkinen was 3rd followed by the Stewarts and Frentzen but was then promoted to victory and his 2nd title when the Ferraris were disqualified for running illegal barge-boards. Ferrari appealed against the decision and were promptly reinstated, putting Irvine ahead of Hakkinen by 4 points going into the final race at Suzuka, so the title would still go down to the wire. Once again, Michael Schumacher was on pole alongside Hakkinen but with Irvine down in 5th, the Finn had the upper hand and proceeded to win the race and his 2nd title. Eddie Irvine had to settle for 3rd behind team-mate Schumacher and lost the title by 2 points, 76-74 in Hakkinen’s favour. Frentzen finished 4th to cap Jordan’s most successful season ever. The Irish team finishing 3rd overall with Stewart leaping ahead of Williams, Benetton, Sauber and Arrows to finish 4th. The Japanese Grand prix marked the ignominous departure of Damon Hill after a disastrous season with Jordan after 115 starts while BAR were the only team not to score after an equally disastrous 1st season.