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Race Report

Brazilian Grand Prix
Circuit Carlos Pace, Interlagos

Qualifying - Race - Analysis

Interlagos

Qualifying : Sunny and warm

Jacques Villeneuvemade it two out of two, though this time the margin was not quite as wide.
Despite the best efforts of Micheal Schumacher and Gerhard Berger, Villeneuve was a comfortable half a second in front of the field. Benetton was the only team to have both cars in the top 6 as Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard all struggled to get the balance required by the Carlos Pace circuit.

Better than expected performances came from Olivier Panis, Damon Hill and Rubens Barrichello while both of the Tyrrell's were disappointingly slow with Mika Salo losing an engine early in the session .

Apart from an early spin for Berger, the only major incident was a major off by Giancarlo Fisichella which stopped the session with three minutes remaining. He walked away unhurt and by that time was comfortably in the top 10.

Jacques Villeneuve

1996 Pole: Damon Hill (Williams) 1m 18.111s

The Starting Grid

Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1m 16.004s
Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m 16.594s
Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 1m 16.644s
Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1m 16.692s
Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen 1m 16.756s
Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 1m 16.757s
Gianni Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1m 16.912s
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 1m 16.924s
Damon Hill TWR Arrows-Yamaha 1m 17.090s
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 1m 17.175s
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 1m 17.259s
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1m 17.262s
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 1m 17.409s
Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1m 17.527s
Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen 1m 17.999s
Pedro Diniz TWR Arrows-Yamaha 1m 18.095s
Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart 1m 18.336s
Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 1m 18.577s
Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas 1m 18.644s
Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 1m 18.773s
Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 1m 19.221s
Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 1m 19.274s

107 % rule time: 1m 21.324s

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Villeneuve passes Schumacher

Race : 72 laps, cloudy but warm

1996 Winner: Damon Hill (Williams) 1h 49m 52.976s

The Result

Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1h 36m 09.990s
Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 1h 36m 14.180s
Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen 1h 36m 25.860s
Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1h 36m 43.072s
Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1h 36m 43.720s
Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 1h 36m 43.920s
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 1h 37m 00.900s
Gianni Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1h 37m 10.630s
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 1h 37m 25.390s
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1 lap down
Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas 1 lap down
Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart 1 lap down
Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 1 lap down
Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen 1 lap down
Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 2 laps down
Eddie Irvine Ferrari 2 laps down
Damon Hill TWR Arrows-Yamaha 69 laps - gearbox
Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 5 laps down
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 52 laps - hydraulics
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 16 laps - suspension
Pedro Diniz TWR Arrows-Yamaha 15 laps - spun off
Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 0 laps - collision damage

Fastest Lap

1997: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams) 1m 18.400s
Previous Record: Michael Schumacher (Benetton) 1m 18.455s (1994)


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First corner carnage

Analysis :
Jacques Villeneuve's bad start in Adelaide landed him in a world of trouble and in Brazil he almost blew it again. This time, however luck was on his side. After being beaten to the first corner by Michael Schumacher, he foolishly refused to concede and careened across the grass, while behind him Damon Hill and Giancarlo Fisichella had made contact sending cars in all directions. Jacques has probably never been so pleased to see a red flag.

Second time around Schumacher repeated his jump on Villeneuve, but this time the Canadian wisely let him go through. Next time around we were then given a perfect example of Williams-Renault superiority as Villeneuve simply blasted past the Ferrari on the front straight. From then on it was all about who would take second.

Many drivers had to switch to T-cars for the restart including Eddie Irvine, Johnny Herbert, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Fisichella and Rubens Barrichello (which meant Stewart team-mate Jan Magnussen did not take part). There were more problems for at the restart for Ukyo Katayama which dropped him far behind the field, while fellow Japanese Shinji Nakano got a scare when he lost a rear wheel in the pitlane but was able to continue.

Remarkably, there were few retirements the most notable being Ralf Schumacher and Damon Hill, who drove a great race in the spare TWR Arrows (after his car started leaking fuel before the race). Benefiting from the longer lasting Bridgestone tyres, Hill made it all the way up to 4th place before dropping back slightly, but leaking oil from the gearbox put paid to his efforts and started a nice little blaze in the back of his car. Olivier Panis also put the Bridgestones to good use as his one stop strategy left him with a solid 3rd place finish.

Some of the top cars were just not in the running, most notably Frentzen and Adelaide winner David Coulthard. Both drivers complained of a lack of balance and neither could match the pace of their team-mates.

Putting the Australian fiasco behind them, both Benetton's ran strongly with Gerhard Berger finishing in a strong 2nd, while Jean Alesi was on his best behavior and quitely ran to 6th. If the race had been a few laps longer, Berger may have been able to challange for the win, but the team were very happy to finish in the runner-up spot.

Although Villeneuve ran impressively once underway, his first start mishap and Frentzen's lacklustre performance did not sit well with the Williams team bosses.
They are going to need to get better (or stay as lucky) in order to take the championship crowns this season.

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Photo credits : AP