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Montreal 1998 - carnage in Canada 11 Jun 2005

First lap accident in which Alexander Wurz(AUT) Benetton Playlife B198 rolls Canadian GP, Montreal, 7 June 1998. World ©  Sutton Ralf Schumacher(GER) Jordan Mugen Honda 198 spins at the 2nd start Canadian GP, Montreal, 7 June 1998. World ©  Sutton 1st corner accident in which Alexander Wurz(AUT) Benetton Playlife B198 rolled Canadian GP, Montreal, 14 June 1998. World ©  Sutton First lap carnage at the Canadian Grand Prix. Jarno Trulli (ITA) Prost, lands his car on top of Jean Alesi's (FRE) Sauber. Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 7 June 1998. World ©  Sutton First lap accident in which Alexander Wurz(AUT) Benetton Playlife B198 rolls Canadian GP, Montreal, 7 June 1998. World ©  Sutton

The most exciting Canadian Grand Prix ever?

It’s now seven years since Canada hosted one of the most spectacularly destructive Grand Prix of recent times with a massive crash on the first lap that saw the race red-flagged.

In 1998 McLaren were at the height of their dominance, David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen lining up next to each other in P1 and P2 on the grid - with the Scotsman a car’s length in front of his team mate. Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari was third, with Giancarlo Fisichella’s Benetton in fourth and Ralf Schumacher - driving for the then-competitive Jordan team - taking the start in P5.

Drama started as soon as the red lights went out, with Ralf stalling on the grid and forcing the pack into evasive action to squeeze past him. Seconds later Alexander Wurz, who had made a good start from 11th place tried to squeeze his Benetton down the inside of Jean Alesi’s Sauber going into the first corner. The two cars made contact and Wurz was launched into a spectacular barrel roll which, by the time he came to rest in the gravel trap, had also caused terminal damage to the cars of Alesi, Jarno Trulli and Johnny Herbert.

With the track covered in debris the race was red flagged - with the drivers of the stricken cars running to the pits to get into their spares ready for the re-start. Both Alesi and Herbert were driving for Sauber, with the T-Car set up for Alesi - but feverish activity by the team’s mechanics on Alesi’s damaged car meant that Herbert was, amazingly, able to take the restart from the pitlane.

It was almost as destructive as the first. Hakkinen’s car barely survived the second start, coasting to a halt with gearbox at the end of the start-finish straight, and Ralf Schumacher’s eventful race continued as he tried to make up for his earlier error with an overly keen move into the first turn which saw his Jordan spin, which in turn caused another multiple pile-up between Mika Salo, Wurz, Trulli and Alesi - with Trulli’s Prost ending up balancing neatly on top of Alesi’s Sauber. This time the red flags stayed furled, with the damaged cars recovered under the protection of the safety car.

It would turn out to be a busy race for the safety car, which was deployed on two further occassions - the second time after Salo’s Arrows had an enormous impact following a catastrophic suspension failure. Shortly afterwards there was yet more drama as Michael Schumacher re-emerged from a pit-stop at high speed and pulled straight onto the racing line - right in front of the completely blameless Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was forced to take evasive action and ended up stranded in a gravel trap as Schumacher continued.

The next incident involved Jacques Villeneuve - who understeered through a gravel trap on the final corner to re-emerge in front of the chasing pack, giving Esteban Tuero in his Minardi nowhere to go except straight into the back of the French Canadian’s Williams, knocking off Jacques’ rear wing - although Villeneuve rejoined the race several laps down after having it replaced.

The race also featured one of the final dices between Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher, the two nearly coming together in a bitter battle for position in which Hill’s Jordan forced Schumacher over a chicane. The result was effectively decided when Michael Schumacher emerged from his final pit stop ahead of the chasing Benetton of Fisichella, Coulthard’s McLaren having retired with mechanical failure during one of the safety car periods.

Of 22 starters just ten made it to the finish line in what pundits had likened to the Formula One equivalent of a demolition derby…