Whatever the figure Ferrari spent on Michael Schumacher, rumoured to be $25m, it was well worth it for the millions of spectators of Formula One worldwide. Putting Schumacher in a car which is nowhere near the class of the field has finally injected a bit of excitement into the proceedings. This is to take nothing away from Hill who, once again, could not put a wheel wrong all weekend. There was a point on Saturday afternoon when it looked like pole would not be his, but would go to the Ferrari of Schumacher, however a perfect lap put enough daylight between them and Hill on pole. Villeneuve meanwhile took things steady on the Friday, taking time to learn the circuit, before making a concerted effort on the Saturday. This approach is paying dividends as Villeneuve put the car on the third spot.
Sunday. At the start Hill made a good getaway from Schumacher and Alesi but Villeneuve saw a large part of the field pass him and when the dust settled was back in 9th place. Plenty of scope for a fight back there and this is what happened with Villeneuve working his way back up to 5th place, some distance behind Berger, where his progress stopped. Meanwhile at the front Hill was slowly edging away, there was never any great gap, but enough to ensure Schumacher had no opportunity to pass.
First pits stops for all the front runners indicated two stops all round but then the race was thrown upside down, literally in Badoers case, when, after a coming together with the Liger of Pedro Diniz, the Forti was flipped over. The pace car (oops! Sorry I mean safety car, of course!) came up while the Forti was moved. At this point the gap between Berger and Villeneuve was extending. All of a sudden a life-line was thrown to Villeneuve as the cars were bunched up. It became obvious that this wasn’t necessary as neither Schumacher or Berger made it to the flag and Alesi stalled his car while in for his second stop.
Oblivious to all behind him Hill made his steady progress to the flag and once more was unchallenged when it mattered.