Date: 16 July 1995
Place: Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire
Winner: Johnny Herbert
Every race fan loves an underdog, and twenty years ago Johnny Herbert confounded the odds to claim Britain’s fourth home win in five years at the circuit.
Britain was by this time in the midst of a now-legendary heatwave but, for Johnny Herbert, prospects were nothing short of bleak and wintry. Though he had scored points in four grands prix, three retirements quickly rendered Herbert a mere onlooker as Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher became entwined in a vicious battle for glory.
Indeed, two of those retirements were consecutive, with the Canadian and French Grands Prix directly preceding the 1995 British Grand Prix. For Herbert there was more than just pride at stake – indeed, his very future with technical powerhouse Benetton was potentially on the line.
Qualifying proved highly arduous for Herbert. Fifth place on the grid, behind the (even more) unfancied Gerhard Berger was a disappointing result for Herbert, further compounded by Damon Hill’s blistering pace which saw Herbert’s time beaten by nearly two seconds. It seemed that only one outcome was possible...
Damon Hill was, as expected, dominant during the first half of the race, leading for 37 laps, but he was unexpectedly dogged by Jean Alesi at the outset. Alesi started from 6th but surged to 2nd after an excellent getaway from the grid, but Hill quickly extended his lead to a seemingly unassailable 6.2 seconds by lap 12.
Meanwhile, there were infringements amongst the chasing pack, with Rubens Barrichello and Olivier Panis penalised for jump-starts. After 20 laps, the race had seen no less than six retirements, with Mika Häkkinen and Gerhard Berger among the early casualties.
With his first pit stop, Hill briefly relinquished the lead but retook it on lap 31 when Schumacher made what was then revealed to be his only intended pit stop. With his management team employing a two-stop strategy, Hill was forced to build up a sufficient lead that would survive the second stop. Ultimately, it was this need for speed that proved to be the undoing of both drivers.
On lap 41, Hill pitted for the second time, but his lead of 27 seconds over Schumacher proved insufficient. Although Schumacher was once again in the lead, Hill’s fresher tyres enabled him to catch up with the German champ on lap 46.
After an unsuccessful attempt to pass Schumacher at Stowe corner, Hill again attempted the move at the Priory, but a turn from Schumacher caused a collision. Both drivers spun into the gravel trap, their afternoon prematurely to blow the race wide open.
Following the collision, Coulthard became the race leader, but an earlier 10s penalty for speeding in the pit lane (due to a faulty speed limiter) made it possible for Herbert and Alesi to chase him down for the win. Though Alesi was able to give chase, his fading oil pressure proved a terminal problem.
For Alesi, simply finishing the race with points became the priority over victory, enabling Herbert to win the race with relative ease and restore his battered pride.
Although Johnny Herbert was never in the title race, this victory spurred him on to better fortunes as the season progressed. He would win again, at the notoriously fast-paced Monza circuit on 10 September, eventually finishing fourth in the standings.
The 1995 British Grand Prix was a fantastic day for Herbert, but it was not all champagne and celebration for another Brit...
In stark contrast to his winning performance of the previous year, Damon Hill suffered the ignominy of retirement at Silverstone in 1995. Several more retirements would follow later that year, rendering his good start to the season utterly useless.
This course of events ultimately enabled Michael Schumacher to successfully defend his Formula One title with ease. The following year, Damon Hill would go on to win his only ever world title before quickly fading away.
At the turn of the millennium, Michael Schumacher would do the exact opposite...
By Tamhas Woods
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