Formula One Update - Monte Carlo

Formula One returned to Monte Carlo on May 28th, the same day as the Indy 500. Historically dominated by the late great Ayrton Senna, the crown of Monaco seems to have been passed down to Michael Schumacher who won for the second time in two years.

Ferrari appeared to be on race winning form after first qualifying; Alesi taking pole and Berger right behind him but it was not to be. By the end of final qualifying Hill was on pole from Schumacher by eight tenths of a second, a huge margin. Berger had slipped down to the second row and Alesi the third. The qualifying order of the top six was: 1. Hill; 2. Schumacher; 3. Coulthard; 4. Berger; 5. Alesi; 6. Hakkinen.

On race day at Monaco, unlike at Spain, there was actually a green light. Unfortunately this meant that the FIA could use their speed traps. At the start there was a fairly short period between the red light and the green. Hill got away well into the first corner but slightly further down the field there were problems. Alesi made a good start and came up along the inside of Coulthard, in a blind spot where he couldn't be seen. Berger had made a good start as well and was nosing ahead of Coulthard on the outside, but not enough ahead. As Berger turned in, he touched Coulthard and some debris went flying, Coulthard rebounded onto Alesi, and then back onto Berger. Coulthard rebounded onto Alesi one more time; Alesi was by this time hitting the brakes hard and Coulthard, going forward much faster than Alesi still, rode over Alesi's front left wheel. Coulthard was catapulted into the air, starting his spin there, and when he hit the ground again he was still in a spin and he came to rest in the middle of the track. Both Ferraris and Coulthard's Williams were out for the restart as the red flags came out!

Fortunately Ferrari, knowing Monaco's record for starts had had the foresight to bring two spare cars, allowing both drivers to restart.

The restart was clean and the order afterwards was: 1. Hill; 2. Schumacher; 3. Coulthard; 4. Alesi; 5. Berger; 6. Herbet. Hill and Schumacher traded fastest laps for the first 12 laps and Alesi swept past Coulthard on lap 18, when Coulthard lost all gears but second.

On lap thirty Schumacher began to lap half a second faster than Hill and on lap 23 Hill got held up by a backmarker so Schumacher got right on Hill's tail. Hill ducked into the pits on lap 35, taking 8.5 seconds and giving Schumacher the lead. It was expected that Schumacher would pit soon but it would a long time before he did....

As soon as Hill had dived into the pits Schumacher had begun pushing his Benetton to the limit to get as much of a lead over Hill and Alesi as possible. The running order was: Schumacher; Alesi; Berger; Hill, but Berger pitted on the next lap giving third place to Hill.

Alesi began blitzing away at Schumacher's lead, the two trading fastest laps, on worn tires, both lapping much faster than Hill or Berger who had already pitted. Schumacher dived into the pits on lap 35 taking 10.2 seconds and emerging in second place with a sizable lead over Hill. Alesi also pitted on lap 37 taking 10.7 seconds and emerging 10 seconds behind Schumacher but only 3 seconds ahead of Hill.

On lap 44 Brundle, who had been pushing really hard to try and make up for a 10 second penalty given to him for a jump start, spun. This on its own wasn't surprising, but Alesi was just coming up to lap him and was collected and put out of the race. Although it was feared at first that he was injured when the marshals manhandled him out of his car he was fine. Still, the Ferrari was out and the hopes for a great second place finish were dashed.

The drivers now just strolled in rather leisurely to the finish. Schumacher winning by 30 seconds after Hill made his second stop. The finishing order was: Schumacher; Hill; Berger; Herbert; Blundell; Frentzen.

Berger's third place finish means that Ferrari continues to be the only team