Brazilian Grand Prix 1996 – Race
Another good weekend for Damon Hill. After a faultless qualifying session, which saw him put his FW18 on pole, he followed it up with a lights to flag victory. Villeneuve was not as lucky, spinning off on the 27th lap while running second and under pressure from Alesi’s Benetton
After a hot two days of practice and qualifying the heavy rain, just one hour before the start, must have come as a surprise. As usual the driver who got away in the lead would have the advantage of being able to see ahead of him. Hill proved the point by getting away in the lead and promptly opening a two second gap to second placed Villeneuve by the end of the first lap.
Villeneuve was clearly holding up Alesi and Barrichello behind him but was still doing a great job in only his second race for Williams and his first in the rain. Unfortunately he eventually succumbed to Alesi and the weather, spinning off into the gravel trap. By this time Hill was 16 seconds ahead and the weather was improving lap by lap. This left the teams with a problem, when and if to change to slick tyres. Most teams elected to do only one tyre stop, came in and went back out on wets. Only Coulthard in the Mclaren tried slicks but paid the price of changing too early and skidded off.
Long after half distance everyone had pitted with the exception of Hill and Alesi. Hill dived in first, after a couple of abortive attempts where he looked to go for the pits and then changed his mind, and came back out on slicks. Alesi did the same a couple of laps later. From there on there was no stopping Hill, the gap to Alesi remaining at 20 odd seconds until the flag.
Schumacher finished third, one lap down, having been passed by Hill in the closing stages – something that gave Hill enormous satisfaction presumably.