Best of the Cahier Archive: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne,1996-1999
The gates to the 2012 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park open today, so we thought we’d take a look back at the inaugural Melbourne race in 1996, through to the decade ending event in 1999.
Jacques Villeneuve set tounges wagging when he planted his Williams on pole, on his Formula 1 debut in 1996. The last time this had happened was when Carlos Reutemann did it in a Brabham BT34 at Argentina in 1972.
Three corners into the race, images of Melbourne were being beamed around the world after Jordan’s Martin Brundle was launched into the air in an spectacular accident. Famously, Brundle rushed back to the pits to take the spare car for the re-start, and reminded us that F1 drivers are a breed apart.
At the re start Villeneuve again hit the front, but late in the race he was told to let Damon Hill through into the lead, due to a serious oil leak. So it was Williams 1-2 with JV the moral winner.
The 1997 race saw McLaren’s David Coulthard, break a 50 race victory drought for the famous British team. Race favourite Jacques Villeneuve was taken out at the first corner by Eddie Irvine which looked to have handed the race to Heinz Harald Frentzen, however brake problems for the German handed the race to McLaren.
“The win was so much better than my first one with Williams,” said Coulthard. “On the slowing down I did something I have never done in a racing car. I cried.”
1998 was a McLaren walk over, with Mika Häkkinen and Coulthard lapping the entire field en route to a dominant 1-2 finish. However the result was somewhat controversial as Coulthard was ordered to pull over with just two laps remaining to allow Häkkinen through for the win.
The reason for the “call” was due to an apparent communication problem between McLaren engineers and Hakkinen, which resulted in the Finn pitting from the lead, unnecessarily, mid race. It set up a title challenge for Mika, whilst Coulthard must have been fuming.
Ferrari won its first Grand Prix in Melbourne in 1999, but it was not with number one driver Michael Schumacher, but colourful playboy Eddie Irvine. Eddie powered to his maiden Grand Prix victory after the all-conquering McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard retired before half-distance. Irvine partied hard all night and Melbourne was awash with a sea of Ferrari red.
This is the latest in our series of photo specials showcasing the stunning images from the Cahier Archive. The collection, by photographers Bernard Cahier and his son Paul-Henri are part of a massive collection of 400 000 originals of which 17 000+ pictures are currently available on their website.
Buy prints of these photographs from just $49