San Marino Grand Prix – 1996
Schumacher on pole in front of Ferrari’s home crowd was an ominous sign for fans of Williams Grand Prix. Schumacher had taken pole on the very last lap of the Saturday session from Hill, Villeneuve, Coulthard, Alesi and Irvine and was looking to finish the job on Sunday
When the lights went out Schumacher got away slowly allowing Hill to beat him from the line. Coulthard, once again though, got a storming start from the second row and dived to the inside of Hill to take the lead. Villeneuve had a slower start and was finding his feet when he was bumped by Alesi. The coming together punctured Villeneuve’s rear tyre forcing him to limp back to the pits for a change of tyres and rejoined last with a lot of catching up to do. The positions at the end of the first lap were: Coulthard, Hill, Schumacher, Salo, Berger and Barrichello.
At the front Coulthard led from Hill and a hard charging Schumacher who dived out from behind Hill to pass him on the second lap. Now the top two began to pull away from Hill who was looking like he either had a problem, or a heavier fuel load.
The leader came in on lap 20 and was followed by Schumacher on lap 21. It was a close run thing as to who would return to the track in the lead both having taken a similar amount of time in the pits. Schumacher emerged just ahead of Coulthard mainly due to his quick time on lap 20.
Hill, meanwhile, inherited the lead and made no signs of coming in – could he be going for one stop? Villeneuve came in for what was now his second stop on lap 26, slowly making his way back up the field. Finally, at half distance, Hill came in but didn’t stop long enough to put in fuel for the rest of the race. He would have to stop again. Hill rejoined one second ahead of Schumacher.
Lap 41 saw Villeneuve up to 15th place behind Alesi and Coulthard into the pits from third. Unfortunately Coulthard stalled the car which put him back into fifth place on rejoining. Schumacher had stopped one lap earlier but it was to be another nine laps before Hill was to make his final stop and rejoined 24.25 seconds ahead of Schumacher.
The race now settled down to a drag to the flag. By lap 48 Villeneuve was up to sixth place – a magnificent effort having been last at the end of the first lap, but it was not to last as on lap 60 he retired with suspension failure, a direct result of his coming together with Alesi.
Hill took the flag 16 seconds ahead of Schumacher who’s right front brake disintegrated on the last lap locking the wheel, he was lucky to have made it to the end.
Another win for Hill extends his lead over Villeneuve to 21.