The Argentine Grand Prix: Round 2 of 17 in the 1995 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Benetton driver Michael Schumacher leading the Drivers’ Championship by 10 points ahead of Williams driver David Coulthard in second place with 6 points ahead of Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger who was in third place with 4 points.
The race marked the return to the Formula One calendar for Argentina after being off the calendar since 1981. The race was removed from the calendar originally due to the retirement of former F1 driver Carlos Reutemann and Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands.
It was reinstated following President Carlos Menem’s rise into power in 1989.To celebrate its return to the calendar, Reutemann drove a demonstration lap aboard the 1994 Ferrari 412 T1 car around the wet Autodromo Oscar Galvez circuit on the Thursday afternoon before the race.
The track, however, was criticised due to its “dirtiness”. The track was held on the “No.6” configuration, the previous Argentine Grands Prix were all held at Oscar Galvez, but on the “No.9” and the fast and rather dangerous “No.15” configurations.
During the break between the Brazilian Grand Prix and the Argentine Grand Prix, the FIA rescinded the rule requiring that holes be cut in the airboxes; consequently, all the cars arrived at the circuit with their airbox holes filled.
Qualifying for the 1995 Argentine Grand Prix was split into two one-hour sessions; the first was held on Friday afternoon with the second held on Saturday afternoon.
Qualifying was packed with incident as car after car gyrated into the lush green grass or the claggy red earth sandtraps. Thursday was bad and Friday was just awful. On Friday, there were a few minutes at the end of the first qualifying session of the weekend when the track was vaguely dry and David Coulthard took provisional pole position.
But if the Williams-Renaults seemed to take the wet in their stride, the Benettons were dreadful, both spinning several times and ending the day ninth and tenth.
The weather on Saturday was not much better and final qualifying began in the middle of a torrential downpour. It was only in the final 10 minutes of the session that the track suddenly became as quick as it had been the previous day. There was a rush as cars came out and three days of practice were condensed into 10 frantic minutes.
Coulthard confirmed his promise and claimed his first F1 pole position ahead of his team mate Damon Hill in second place and Michael Schumacher in third place. Eddie Irvine qualified in fourth place ahead of Mika Hakkinen in fifth place, Jean Alesi in sixth place and Mika Salo in seventh place. Gerhard Berger qualified in eighth place ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen in ninth place and Rubens Barrichello who rounded off the top ten finishers of the session.
On race day on Sunday, the race was stopped on the first lap after accidents in the first three corners. Ferrari driver Jean Alesi spun on the inside of the first corner, causing Mika Salo to brake sharply and be hit from behind by Luca Badoer.
The resulting jam of cars caused Olivier Panis to hit the back of Pierluigi Martini and slide into the gravel on the outside of the corner. Salo’s ailing Tyrrell then tangled with Johnny Herbert on the exit of the corner. At Turn 3, Barrichello was knocked from behind by Herbert and slid to a halt, only to be rammed by the damaged Minardi of Badoer. Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell was also damaged in the accident.
Alesi, Panis and Barrichello returned to the pits on foot for their spare cars while Badoer was left without a car as teammate Martini was given the Minardi spare. Herbert and Katayama had managed to drive back to the pits for their spare cars while Salo’s car was repaired on the grid.
On the second formation lap, Sauber driver Karl Wendlinger stalled and started at the back alongside Barrichello who was late coming out of the pits. At the second start, Coulthard led from Schumacher and Hill.
McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen and Jordan-Peugeot driver Eddie Irvine touched on the run down to the first corner, with Häkkinen’s left rear tyre punctured which caused him to spin off.
Further back, Wendlinger managed to tangle with both the Pacific cars of Bertrand Gachot and Andrea Montermini at the first corner, putting all three out. Irvine made it back to the pits for a replacement nose.
Coulthard was leading when his throttle failed and restarted; thereby dropping him to third place. Hill passed Schumacher for the lead on lap 11 and built a lead of 12 seconds before pitting on lap 16, when Schumacher was then passed by the recovering Coulthard for the lead.
One lap later, Coulthard stopped with throttle problems; this time permanently and retired from the race. Alesi who was using a 2-stop strategy, took the lead after Hill and Schumacher’s pit stops and held it until pitting on lap 26. Alesi was able to rejoin just in front of Schumacher for second, 26 seconds behind Hill.
Hill and Schumacher made their second stops near the half-way point, with Schumacher getting delayed about 7 seconds by a refueling problem. Hill then led by 9 seconds from Alesi, with Schumacher another 30 seconds behind. Alesi then closed on Hill, getting the gap down to 4 seconds by around lap 50 when the top three all made their final stops.
Hill was then able to pull away from Alesi again, getting the gap up to 12 seconds and winning the 1995 Argentine Grand Prix. Jean Alesi finished the race in second place but on his last set of tyres, Schumacher was able to close on Alesi and set the fastest lap of the race; but was much too far behind to challenge for second place and finished in third place behind Alesi.
Johnny Herbert finished in fourth place ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen in fifth place and Gerhard Berger in sixth place. This put him in the championship lead briefly before Coulthard and Schumacher’s points from Brazil were restored on appeal. Olivier Panis finished the race just out of the points in seventh place ahead of Ukyo Katayama in eighth place ahead of Mimmo Schiattarella in ninth place.
The 1995 Argentine Grand Prix saw Damon Hill achieve his tenth win in Formula One which is a fantastic achievement. Hill drove a good race and showed the world once again that when he has the car underneath him, he can deliver and he showed this when he finally won the world championship in 1996 at the Japanese Grand Prix.
This race will always be remembered for Bertrand Gachot’s 75th Grand Prix start, Mark Blundell’s and Ukyo Katayama’s 50th Grand Prix starts and also the 100th Grand Prix starts for Ligier Gitanes Blondes and Mugen-Honda. But also we saw in this race David Coulthard in his tenth Formula One race claiming his first Pole Position of his career and also Williams’ 75th Pole Position in their history in the sport.
However, this race will also be remembered for Tyrrell driver Mika Salo was running 5th (and catching 4th placed Johnny Herbert) when he collided with the lapped Aguri Suzuki. A pitlane punch-up followed, and Salo later told the BBC that “drivers like Suzuki should not be in Formula One.”
And as the 1995 World Championship leaded towards the next round in Italy at the San Marino Circuit, Schumacher was leading the Driver’s Championship by 14 points ahead of Hill with 10 points and also ahead of Alesi who had 8 points in third place.