Classic F1: 1996 Japanese Grand Prix

It’s Sunday the 13th of October 1996, Damon Hill will have woken that morning thinking this was going to be possibly his last shot at a world title.

It was well documented at the time that Damon wouldn’t be continuing with Williams into 1997 with Heinz-Harold Frentzen coming into the team and with very little drives available, Damon had signed with Tom Walkinshaw’s new Arrows project for 1997.

On Saturday’s qualifying Damon had only managed to secure 2nd on the grid behind title rival and team mate, Jacques Villeneuve by nearly half a second.

The first start had to be aborted due to David Coulthard stalling his McLaren, the grid then reformed and on the second restart Jacques got a terrible get away and fell to sixth behind Berger, Hakkinen, Schumacher and Irvine.

With Damon needing only one point to seal the championship in his favour he must have felt like everything was falling into place by this point, on lap three, Berger tried passing Hill into the final chicane but damaged his Benetton’s front wing in the process.

As the race wore on Damon kept the lead and pulled away from the field, Michael Schumacher overtook Mika Hakkinen for second place in first round of pitstops. On lap 37 Jacques’ car heading into turn one had lost his rear right wheel, because wheel tethers were not used in Formula One yet, his wheel overtook the car hit the barrier and actually hopped the fence landing in the grandstand, thankfully no one was hurt.

But because Jacques was out of the race, this meant Damon was finally world champion regardless of the result of the race. At last his dream finally realised after losing out in 1994 and 1995 to Michael Schumacher.

To sum up my review, I leave you with Murray Walker talking through Damon’s last lap of the race.