But it didn't last long. Schumacher got past Alesi on the first lap and passed Berger on lap 4. The running order is: Coulthard, Hill, Schumacher, Berger, Alesi, Frentzen, Herbert, Irvine, Barrichello, Brundle, Blundel, Panis, Morbidelli, Salo, Katayama, Lamy, Inoue, Moreno, Diniz, Gachot, Wendlinger, Montemini.
By lap 11 Coulthard begins lapping the back markers and on lap 15 Inoue slides into the wall while being lapped by Schumacher. On lap 18 Herbert dives in impossibly late to pass Frentzen but over runs the corner and Frentzen retakes 6th.
Pit work begins on lap 19 with Hill going in first and taking only 9.1 seconds. Berger also comes in on lap 19 but takes 11.2 seconds. Most interesting of all, Coulthard also heads for the pits but comes in too hot and slides into the wall on the pit entry corner and retires. Talk about an embarrassing way to end your season! (It was later determined that oil was on the pit lane entry road.)
This put the running order at: Schumacher, Hill, Alesi, Frentzen, Herbert, Irvine. On lap 22 Schumacher goes into the pits and his stellar crew does their thing in an amazing 6.9 seconds. He just misses Alesi as he rejoins the track but he's going to miss that Benetton pit crew even more as he moves to Ferrari next year.
Schumacher can't stand being behind the Ferrari and out brakes Alesi but Jean turns in anyway and hits Schumacher's Benetton pretty good. Both cars keep going with Schumacher seemingly fine and Alesi with a broken front wing. Alesi pits and gets a new nose cone in only 21.4 seconds, coming back out in 7th. Perhaps the altercation had more effect on the Benetton that was first thought because on lap 23 Schumacher comes into pits for a long 27.1 seconds to check the rear suspension. He goes back out but is in for good on lap 25. Meanwhile, Alesi also retires due to damage to his car from the incident. With this retirement, Alesi loses all chance of regaining his 4th place position in the Driver's Championship, taken by Herbert with a 3rd place finish in the Grand Prix of Japan two weeks earlier.
Making Coulthard feel a bit better I'm sure, Moreno crashes in pit entrance on lap 24. Hill now has a 32 second lead over Herbert and Irvine pits for 9.7 seconds, making the order: Hill, Herbert, Berger, Frentzen, Brundle, Irvine. Apparently, the pit boards aren't letting the drivers know about the slick entry to pit lane because Herbert tries to come into the pits but locks up and slides across the concrete strip and back onto track. No damage done and he makes it into the pits on lap 31 for 9.0 seconds, back out in 4th place.
Berger is now in second place but he's 47 seconds behind Hill. On lap 34 Blundell pits for 8.7 seconds and Berger retires with a blown engine. So much for Ferrari this year.
This makes the running order largely devoid of the big name teams: Hill, Frentzen, Herbert, Irvine, Panis, Morbidelli. Frentzen gets stuck trying to lap Blundell and nearly gets passed by Herbert, with all 3 cars nose to tail. Finally, on lap 37, the Frentzen/Herbert train gets past Blundell and Frentzen's in car camera neatly reports the universal gesture that he gives to Blundell as he goes by, one hand on the steering wheel.
Frentzen retires with a mechanical failure on lap 39 and by lap 45 there are only 11 cars left in the race. H