Damon Hill ended the 1995 Formula One motor racing season in style yesterday in Adelaide when he won a chaotic Australian Grand Prix in commanding fashion.
Hill guided his Williams- Renault through the debris of countless retirements and crashes to finish more than two laps clear of Olivier Panis in a Ligier. The victory was Hill's 13th and came on a day when all his major rivals, including the world champion Michael Schumacher, were forced to retire.
Only eight of the 23 starters finished the race, but that did not bother Hill as he got the result he needed to boost his confidence after a fraught month.
Gianni Morbidelli, in a Footwork, had the best result of his career by taking third place, ahead of Mark Blundell, in the sole McLaren after the accident on Friday which put his team-mate Mika Hakkinen in hospital with severe concussion.
Mika Salo finished fifth in a Tyrrell and Pedro Lamy was sixth for Minardi, both three laps behind on Hill as the massive crowd invaded the circuit. The attendance of 205,000 for the 17th and final race of the season and the 11th and final Australian Grand Prix to be held in Adelaide was an all-time Formula One one-day record.
It was a sweet victory for Hill, who had been heavily criticised for failing to maintain his championship challenge to Schumacher. He said: "This is a very satisfying and special victory for me and for the team. We have had a long season and this gives us cause for celebration.
"It is my 13th victory and I had begun to wonder when it would come. But everything went my way today. It is a tough circuit and a tough race and this is a funny old game, isn't it?
"It was just amazing. For a country that is so famous for its flies, they were all falling away like flies in this race. I had a massive gap. I was just wondering what would happen next and waiting for something to happen to me. As a guy in Perth taught me to say last week, it was `too easy, mate'. It was a strange race, but I will take it.
"We had been hoping for a result like this over the last couple of races, but it did not happen so this was a great boost for the team. It is a great trophy to have - and what a race to win. I can sit on it for the winter now."
Panis was equally delighted with his finish after nursing home his car, which had a near-blown engine, over the closing laps as it dropped oil around the track. "I am very satisfied for myself and the team," Panis said. "It proves what progress we have made this year."
The race had started surprisingly with David Coulthard beating Hill, on pole position, to the chicane. Schumacher, starting third, was left behind both Ferraris but fought back to regain fourth place on the opening lap.
Coulthard led until lap 20 when, on the approach to his pit-stop, he slid off the track and crashed into the pit-lane wall.
Schumacher and Jean Alesi collided on lap 22. Schumacher appeared to have passed Alesi cleanly, but the Ferrari driver retaliated and cut into him, damaging his rear wheel and suspension. Schumacher felt he had a good chance of winning the race at that stage and was disappointed with Alesi's move. "He had no chance of passing me and it was a wrong move," he said. "But it has been a great season so I just want to forget it and have a party."
The retirements and accidents also claimed Schumacher's team-mate, Johnny Herbert, who was second behind Hill when he retired with a gearbox problem.
Both Jordans also joined the list of parked cars - Eddie Irvine retiring with engine problems after running third and Rubens Barrichello sliding off in the early stages. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who had also been second at one stage, also pulled up with gearbox problems.
Hakkinen recovers, page 28
Australian Grand Prix
(81 laps, 190.251 miles)
1 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault
1hr 49min 15.946sec (104.47mph)
2 O Panis (Fr) Ligier-Mugen Honda +2 laps
3 G Morbidelli (It) Footwork-Hart +2 laps
4 M Blundell (GB) McLaren-Mercedes +2 laps
5 M Salo (Fin) Tyrrell-Yamaha +3 laps
6 P Lamy (Por) Minardi-Ford +3 laps
7 P P Diniz (Br) Forti-Ford +4 laps; 8 B Gachot (Fr) Pacific-Ford +5 laps. Not classified (did not finish): 9 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha, 70 laps completed; 10 J Herbert (GB) Benetton-Renault 69; 11 E Irvine (GB) Jordan-Peugeot 62; 12 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Sauber-Ford 39; 13 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari 34; 14 M Brundle (GB) Ligier-Mugen Honda 29; 15 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Renault 25; 16 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari 23; 17 R Moreno (Br) Forti-Ford 21; 18 R Barrichello (Br) Jordan-Peugeot 20; 19 D Coulthard (GB) Williams-Renault 19; 20 T Inoue (Japan) Footwork-Hart 15; 21 K Wendlinger (Aut) Sauber-Ford 8; 22 A Montermini (It) Pacific-Ford 2. Did not start: L Badoer (It) Minardi-Ford; M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes.
Final world drivers' championship standings: 1 Schumacher 102pts; 2 Hill 69; 3 Coulthard 49; 4 Herbert 45; 5 Alesi 42; 6 Berger 31; 7 Hakkinen 17; 8 Panis 16; 9 Frentzen 15; 10 Blundell 13; 11 Barrichello 11; 12 Irvine 10; 13 Brundle 7; 14= Morbidelli, Salo 5; 16 J-C Bouillon (Fr) 3; 17= Lamy, A Suzuki (Japan) 1.
Final world constructors' championship standings: 1 Benetton-Renault 137pts; 2 Williams-Renault 112; 3 Ferrari 73; 4 McLaren-Mercedes 30; 5 Ligier-Mugen Honda 24; 6 Jordan-Peugeot 21; 7 Sauber-Ford 18; 8= Footwork- Hart, Tyrrell-Yamaha 5; 10 Minardi-Ford 1.Reuse content