From the archive: Coulthard takes chequered flag for first time at the 21st attempt
JAMES Alexander sees Scot win Portugal GP, while Hill’s title hopes plummet
25 September 1995
David Coulthard came of age as a Grand Prix driver in Portugal yesterday with the first victory of his career, but team-mate Damon Hill’s dream of winning the world championship turned into a nightmare.
The Scot finally took the chequered flag first at the 21st time of trying, winning by just over seven seconds from Michael Schumacher, with Hill a dejected third.
The German’s second place extended his championship advantage over Hill by another two points to 17, with only four races left. And the next, in just seven days time, is on his home territory.
But Schumacher also scored the crushing psychological blow of overtaking his rival after Hill, who adopted a two-pit-stop strategy compared to the world champion’s three, had moved into second.
Coulthard punched the air with delight as he crossed the finishing line, having dominated the race from the start, but there was just as gleeful a punch from Schumacher who knows he could have landed the knockout blow.
The Williams team decided to play safe by not using the revised FW17B, which had dominated qualifying, because of reliability fears. It proved justified with both of their cars finishing.
There was certainly no holding Coulthard, who is leaving the team at the end of the season and is almost certainly bound for McLaren, though Ferrari remain a possibility.
The victory, after a season dogged by injury and unreliability, could not have come at a better time for the 24-year-old Scot from Twynholm.
Coulthard desperately wanted a victory before leaving the team. He finally got it, though knowing it could end his team-mate’s hopes of taking the championship from Schumacher.
By the time the top three emerged from the first round of pit-stops – Hill and Schumacher went in together on the 18th lap, before Coulthard – the Monaco-based driver held an advantage of nearly five seconds.
But with Williams’ mechanics encountering refuelling difficulties, Hill slipped back a place into fourth behind Alesi and, unable to get past the Frenchman, lost acres of time.
When Alesi eventually went into the pits for fresh rubber and fuel, Hill was a massive 20 seconds behind Coulthard, but more importantly 15 adrift of Schumacher, the man he just had to beat. The 34-year-old moved up to second, then into the lead as Schumacher and Coulthard preceded him into the pits for the second time midway through the 71-lap race.
But his lead lasted only until his own pit-stop seven laps later, and then only just, as he had to fend off Coulthard as the duo raced each other for several laps.
Despite re-entering the fray more than 24 seconds behind Schumacher, Hill knew the German and his team-mate would need one more stop.
When the top two went into the pits on the same lap, Hill took over in second from Schumacher, but was still seven seconds down on Coulthard.
And any thought of Coulthard moving over on team orders went out of the window when Schumacher made his dramatic overtaking manoeuvre with just nine laps left in what could be the decisive move of the championship.
All the other British drivers finished the race with Johnny Herbert just out of the points in seventh in his Benetton.
He was followed by Martin Brundle (Ligier), Mark Blundell (McLaren) and Eddie Irvine (Jordan).
The race – attended by Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and model wife Jerry Hall – was only seconds old when it was brought to a halt after Japanese driver Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell flipped off the front of Luca Badoer’s Minardi.
Katayama’s car spun round twice and hit the steel fence in front of the grandstand. The 32-year-old’s left hand was trapped under the car but, although he was taken away on a stretcher, Katayama had recovered enough in the medical centre to be able to talk to officials from his Woking-based team. He had no broken bones, but was complaining of a very stiff neck.
Confident Coulthard, having taken it easy on both warm-up laps to ensure there was no repeat of the last race in Italy where he spun off, kept his composure at the restart to storm away.
But it was a different story for Hill, who was quickly passed by Schumacher.
Coulthard dedicated his first triumph, on the track where he had achieved his first podium finish 12 months ago, to his parents Duncan and Joyce. “This means more to them than me. They do not come to every race, so it was great for them to be here,” he said.
“They have been trekking up and down from Scotland ever since I was 11. My father will use this as an excuse for getting drunk over the next few months.
“Ever since I was young, even before I started karting, I always imagined what it would be like to be a Grand Prix driver and to win. Now I know what it’s like to win.
“It’s the highest moment of my life, but hopefully it will not be the best moment ever.
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