The Jordan Grand Prix team made their debut in Formula 1 in 1991. But it would be some seven years before they took their first victory. But it was a victory that will live long in the memory of fans worldwide.
The 1998 season saw Jordan field Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher in a pretty strong line-up as they looked to finally take a Grand Prix victory. It took until halfway through for the team to score points due to unreliability, but from that point on things slowly improved.
Spa saw Hill qualify an excellent third on the grid, behind the McLaren’s of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Race day saw torrential rain but despite this, the race still saw a standing start take place. As the light went out, Hakkinen led the field down to Eau Rouge, as chaos ensued behind him.
Coulthard lost traction heading down to Eau Rouge, and spun into the wall. He caused a chain reaction which wiped out the majority of the field in one of the maddest accidents F1 has seen. But the Jordan pair of Hill and Schumacher R managed to escape the carnage, Schumacher only just doing so. This brought out the red flag whilst the track was cleared. Four drivers didn’t manage to restart the race, the rest lining up with the majority all in the spare cars that were allowed as per the rules at the time.At the
This brought out the red flag whilst the track was cleared. Four drivers didn’t manage to restart the race, the rest lining up with the majority all in the spare cars that were allowed as per the rules at the time.
At the restart, Hill got away brilliantly, so brilliantly that he had taken the lead before the pack got into turn one. Hakkinen meanwhile was spun around by Michael Schumacher and was then collected by Johnny Herbert’s Sauber, putting the McLaren out of the race in an instant. Hill streaked away as Schumacher took his teammate Eddie Irvine down the Kemmel straight, as Coulthard spun off after contact with the Benetton of Alex Wurz.
The safety car was called out to remove Hakkinen’s car, and the race resumed at the end of the second lap. Hill led and took Schumacher with him before the Ferrari took the lead at the end of lap eight. Schumacher looked set to win as he pulled away from the Jordan, Hill holding a comfortable second and teammate Schumacher R behind.
Suddenly, the race was turned on its head. Ferrari boss Jean Todt had just been over to McLaren boss Ron Dennis, to make sure Coulthard wouldn’t hold up Michael as the German came up to lap the Scot. But as Schumacher tried to lap Coulthard down towards Pouhon, he smashed into the back of the McLaren after it had slowed, putting the Ferrari out of the race and giving the lead back to Hill. It also meant that it was now a 1-2 for Jordan and the chance was there for the team to take their first ever victory after nearly eight seasons of trying.
Team boss Eddie Jordan decided to impose team orders. Ralf was catching Damon, but Jordan didn’t want to risk a 1-2 result if their drivers got into a battle so decided to ask them to hold station. Particularly after a crash between Giancarlo Fisichella’s Benetton and the Minardi of Shinji Nakano. Schumacher R wasn’t happy but duly complied, knowing it could go wrong if he tried to take the lead from Hill and that Jean Alesi who was third in the Sauber could well snatch the race from them. Hill
Hill led his teammate over the line to take the Jordan team’s first win, and his 22nd and last victory in Formula 1. It was a highly emotional day for the team and Hill after searching for a win for so many years. When Eddie Jordan entered the sport, many thought he was mad. It was dominated by Ferrari, McLaren and Williams, the three biggest teams in the sport by miles. Eddie wanted to prove that a smaller, independent team could take on the big boys and beat them at their own game. That first win so nearly came in the team’s first ever season, and ironically at Spa in the hands of Andrea De Cesaris. It seemed only right when the win did come, it was at Spa. It was also an amazing turnaround from such a tricky start to Jordan’s year, with so many issues plaguing the team and its new star driver.
That first win so nearly came in the team’s first ever season, and ironically at Spa in the hands of Andrea De Cesaris. It seemed only right when the win did come, it was at Spa. It was also an amazing turnaround from such a tricky start to Jordan’s year, with so many issues plaguing the team and its new star driver.
And for that star driver, it also silenced many doubters. After his championship-winning season and subsequent move to Arrows over the winter of 1996/97, it seemed like Hill would never win a race again. He came oh so close in Hungary 1997 but after that, no one thought he could do it.
Jordan was a much better team than Arrows but six years without a win and a driver who hadn’t won for over a year didn’t seem the best initial match. But the race hill drove at Spa in 1998 was potentially one his greatest ever, perhaps as close to his herculean effort in Suzuka 1994. It was a race of high attrition and where a mistake would likely end in an early flight home, but Hill showed just why he was a world champion. He and Jordan had created a legacy, that showed the big boys were absolutely beatable.