The ‘moral winner’ can often be quite distinct from the actual race-winner, and Formula 1 is littered with hard-luck stories of drivers robbed of race victories by one such calamity or other.
Today we celebrate such an example. It was a race that was shortlisted in our ‘Top 10 Last Lap Wins’ countdown: the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix, which occurred on this day fifteen years ago.
The blisteringly hot temperatures gave the grid’s few Bridgestone runners a leg up in competitiveness and suddenly Damon Hill – the defending champion in the little-fancied Arrows – was right up there, qualifying a tremendous third.
On a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult, Hill made a good start to take second at Turn 1, and on lap 11 he forced his way past race leader Michael Schumacher.
Running untroubled almost to the end of the race, Hill had built up a lead of 35 seconds. But with three lap to run, his Arrows faltered: a hydraulics problem was affecting his throttle and gearshift.
He limped around the circuit losing twenty-seven seconds to Jacques Villeneuve in the next two laps, before the Canadian shot by on the final lap to take a surprise win. Damon stuttered home in second place, having come just a few miles short of taking Arrows’ first-ever win on its 299th Grand Prix.
The team would never win a race.
1997 Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (77 laps):
|1.||Jacques Villeneuve||Williams Renault FW19||77||1:45:47.149||2|
|2.||Damon Hill||Arrows Yamaha A18||77||+ 9.079||3|
|3.||Johnny Herbert||Sauber Petronas C16||77||+ 20.445||10|
|4.||Michael Schumacher||Scuderia Ferrari F310B||77||+ 30.501||1|
|5.||Ralf Schumacher||Jordan Peugeot 197||77||+ 30.715||14|
|6.||Shinji Nakano||Prost Mugen-Honda JS45||77||+ 41.512||16|
|7.||Jarno Trulli||Prost Mugen-Honda JS45||77||+ 1:15.552||12|
|8.||Gerhard Berger||Benetton Renault B197||77||+ 1:16.409||7|
|9.||Eddie Irvine||Scuderia Ferrari F310B||76||Accident||5|
|10.||Ukyo Katayama||Minardi Hart M197||76||1 lap behind||20|
|11.||Jean Alesi||Benetton Renault B197||76||1 lap behind||91|
|12.||Tarso Marques||Minardi Hart M197||75||2 laps behind||22|
|13.||Mika Salo||Tyrrell Ford 025||75||2 laps behind||21|
|DNF.||David Coulthard||McLaren Mercedes MP4/12||65||Alternator||8|
|DNF.||Jos Verstappen||Tyrrell Ford 025||61||Hydraulics||18|
|DNF.||Pedro Diniz||Arrows Yamaha A18||53||Alternator||19|
|DNF.||Giancarlo Fisichella||Jordan Peugeot 197||42||Spin||13|
|DNF.||Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Williams Renault FW19||29||Fuel valve||6|
|DNF.||Rubens Barrichello||Stewart Ford SF1||29||Engine||11|
|DNF.||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren Mercedes MP4/12||12||Hydraulics||4|
|DNF.||Gianni Morbidelli||Sauber Petronas C16||7||Engine||15|
|DNF.||Jan Magnussen||Stewart Ford SF1||5||Damage||17|
|Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Williams Renault FW19||25||1:18.372|