Flashback: Johnny Herbert victory at the 1995 British Grand Prix
5 July, 2012
Jul.5 (Renault Sport F1) Renault has scored many successes at the British GP since Alain Prost’s 1983 victory, and in the days of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill the Williams team was always the focus of attention.
But perhaps no Silverstone victory was more popular than that achieved by Johnny Herbert for Benetton in 1995. The Englishman’s first F1 win not only went down well with the home crowd, it also provided some welcome relief for Renault after its two title chasing drivers – Hill and Michael Schumacher, crashed out of the race.
Schumacher had beaten Hill to the 1994 World Championship in a controversial finale in Adelaide. Benetton switched to Renault V10 power for the following season, and the battle between the pair continued.
With so much focus on Schumacher it was inevitable that his team mate was in his shadow. Herbert had joined Benetton at the end of 1994, qualifying fifth and seventh in Japan and Australia, but failing to finish either race.
Although he didn’t match the form of Schumacher, he started the 1995 season with some solid results, taking a second place in Spain and fourths in Argentina and Monaco. Things were starting to look bad for him when he retired from the Canada and French races after collisions. Heading into his home race at Silverstone, he was in need of a good showing.
All eyes however were on the Schumacher/Hill contest as the local hero sought to repeat his 1994 win. After his win in the French GP Schumacher led by 46 to 35 points in the World Championship, so it was also important for Hill to close the gap.
Hill did the difficult bit in qualifying, taking pole ahead of his rival by 0.277s. Meanwhile it was a Renault 1-2-3 as David Coulthard took third in the other Williams. Behind Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari, Herbert took a respectable fifth spot, with a podium as his obvious target.
Hill made a good start from pole but it was Jean Alesi from sixth who charged into second place in his Ferrari. The Frenchman kept Schumacher at bay for some 18 laps before making his first pit stop. Hill came in on lap 22, handing the lead to Michael.
However, the Benetton driver showed no sign of coming in, and it was soon apparent that he was planning to stop only once. He finally pitted on lap 31, just after half distance. Damon regained a lead of some 20s until he made his second stop 10 laps later, having gradually increased his advantage to 27s.
It wasn’t quite enough, for when he emerged he was just behind Schumacher. They both now had a fuel load to carry them to the flag, but Damon’s tyres were 10 laps younger. A serious fight was in the offing…
Hill was all over the back of the Benetton, until on lap 46, disaster struck. He made a move down the inside into Priory, the lefthander in the ‘stadium’ section, but Schumacher held his ground. The two cars touched — unfortunately right in front of a Renault sign — and speared into the gravel trap. Both men were clearly out of the race, and inevitably they blamed each other.
Hill’s disappearance was a huge disappointment for the home fans, until they realised who had benefited. With 16 laps to go, third placed Herbert sailed into the lead, and with Coulthard on his tail, we now had a fight for victory between two Brits who had not yet won a Grand Prix. DC got past on lap 51, but soon afterwards had to head for the pits for a stop and go penalty – he’d been caught for speeding at his second stop after a problem with his limiter.
His departure left Herbert to come home over 16s ahead of Alesi’s Ferrari, while Coulthard managed to salvage third and some satisfaction for Williams. Johnny’s win was popular not just with the home fans but with most of the paddock, as everyone was aware how hard he’d had to fight to make it to the top after his 1988 F3000 crash.
And just two months later there was a case of déjà vu when Hill and Schumacher collided once again, and Herbert came through to score a second win…
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