In the first of a new series of articles, I am looking back through the archives at some of F1’s most dramatic and memorable races, and what better way to start than with a race which heralded spectacular action, incidents galore and the first and only win for one of the sports most popular drivers…..
So we rewind the clock to the 11th June 1995, on a cloudy but warm afternoon. The all-conquering Benetton of Michael Schumacher had notched up another pole, the ninth of his career, clear of the Williams-Renaults of Damon Hill and David Coulthard. Not far behind them were the ever-improving Ferraris of Gerhard Berger, who was just ahead of the effervescent birthday boy Jean Alesi. The drama here began on the very first lap, as Mika Hakkinen and Johnny Herbert came to grief at the hairpin, becoming interlocked as a result and were swiftly eliminated. One further tour later, and David Coulthard spun on a damp part of the circuit and into the gravel.
Elsewhere, Hill was struggling with an uncompetitive car, and was dispatched by both of the Ferraris, who were going well until Berger ran out of fuel and had to crawl back to the pits. Berger’s race ended later with a ill-judged attempt at passing Martin Brundle, who also retired. Hill departed after 50 laps with gearbox failure. Meanwhile, the utter domination of Schumacher was derailed with a gearbox problem, which required a lengthy stop and a steering wheel change, dropping him to fifth.
The attrition rate left Alesi out in front, with the Jordan’s of Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine surprisingly up in second and third, positions to which all three remained as Alesi rounded out a memorable and emotional victory. The race was slightly marred by a track invasion on the last lap, meaning results were counted back one lap. Amazingly Alesi ran out of fuel on his way back, and was given a taxi back to the podium by Schumacher, who had been denied a certain victory.
Despite his undoubted ability and talent, Alesi would never win again, and after stints with Benetton, Sauber, Prost and finally Jordan, he retired from the sport after the end of the 2001 season.