Hungarian Grand Prix: Damon Hill's Arrows agony

Damon Hill was put in an awkward position by Williams in 1996, to say the least.

Well on the way to winning the world championship, Hill was told only at the end of August that he was surplus to requirements in 1997.

Hungarian Grand Prix 1997

Damon Hill
  • Race 11 of the 1997 season
  • 77 laps
  • Pole: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari - 1:14:672)
  • Winner: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams)

That left him very little choice of where to drive in the year during which he would be defending his world title - in fact, it made it impossible for him to do so, as there were no front-running drives available.

In the end, Hill turned down Jordan - where he was to end up in 1998, ironically - and plumped for Arrows, sold on the promises and ambition of their team boss, Tom Walkinshaw.

The cynical media were less ready to believe the burly Scot's promises than Hill, and in this instance it was the journalists who were proved right. Hill's year with Arrows in 1997 was a disaster. With the exception of one remarkable race.

Until the Hungarian Grand Prix,  one sixth place in 10 races was Hill's best effort - and he had even suffered the ignominy of being out-qualified by his journeyman team-mate Pedro Diniz in Monaco, of all places.

But in Hungary it all came right - helped to a large extent by the Bridgestone tyres used by Arrows and other mid-grid teams being far better suited to the dusty, low-grip track surface than the Goodyears used by the top teams.

Classic F1 - Hungarian Grand Prix 1997

Hill took a brilliant third place in qualifying and at the start thrust past Jacques Villeneuve's Williams - how good that must have felt - and tracked Michael Schumacher's Ferrari as its tyres began to fade.

Then, almost unbelievably, Hill swept past Schumacher into the lead!

Driving superbly, he built a massive lead, only for the Arrows' hydraulics to fail in the closing stages.

Villeneuve closed him down and - agonisingly - the Canadian raced past to victory on the very last lap.

It was so nearly a win that would have gone down in history but, whatever the result, it was a truly great drive and one of the most remarkable races F1 has seen.