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Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK

Don't mention the Wall

Montreal's first lap crash on Sunday was certainly not its last

BBC Motor Racing Correspondent Jonathan Legard reflects on the Montreal wall game which decided the Canadian Grand Prix.

Three former world champions, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, and Jacques Villeneuve, hit Montreal's wall in exactly the same place.

And with every crashing blow you could imagine Max Mosley's smile getting wider and wider.

After such a breathless, incident-packed race - more demolition derby than Grand Prix - Formula One's rule-makers must be glowing with satisfaction.

[ image: Schucmacher gets out of his wrecked car]
Schucmacher gets out of his wrecked car
Who's complaining now about the lost art of overtaking?

Unlike Barcelona, Montreal is a circuit which plays to the gallery. It is slippery and unfamiliar, and its hairpins and chicanes are ruinously brake-baking.

And if it caught out Michael Schumacher, it must be good.

"I lost control of the car at the last chicane, because I went off the racing line and got on the dirt," he said.

"This was clearly my mistake. I apologise to the team, who again did a great job this weekend. It was a shame because the car was working perfectly.

"I usually make one mistake a year. I hope this incident was the last for the season."

Hakkinen in control

It was the first time Schumacher had failed to finish at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

[ image: The safety car put in plenty of laps in Canada]
The safety car put in plenty of laps in Canada
For Mika Hakkinen, it was his first victory in Canada since his debut in 1991.

His McLaren was a model of reliability. While others, like team-made David Coulthard, were falling off the road, the world champion never faltered.

"It was a fantastic race. I really enjoyed it and I am pleased to have changed my luck at this particular circuit," he said.

"I felt very comfortable with the car, and I was able to match Michael's pace and at the same time look after my car.

"Then to my surprise, I saw him go off and I just concentrated on maintaining the right pace to win the race."

[ image: Fisichella: Second place overshadowed by Irvine]
Fisichella: Second place overshadowed by Irvine
Giancarlo Fisichella's third podium in three years in Canada was lost amid the debris and the adulation for the driver who finished one step below.

Eddie Irvine drove the wheels of his Ferrari in an inspirational charge through the field after being knocked off the track in a tangle with Coulthard.

His duels with Johnny Herbert and Ralf Schumacher brought the record 104,000-strong crowd to its feet as he swept past both.

"I am happy with third, after such an exciting race," he said. "It was really good to feel the whole team backing me after Michael went out.

"Where there's a will there's a way to overtake. Herbert was quick on the straight and as we came to the corner I braked on the limit and had to cut across the grass.

[ image: Irvine: brilliant charge to podium]
Irvine: brilliant charge to podium
"There were other exciting moments like when we were three abreast going into the first corner. My car was perfect - the best racing car I have ever driven."

Irvine is now third in the championship, only five points behind Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen is in front for the first time this year.

But the worry for McLaren is that David Coulthard is being outperformed and out-scored by Irvine.

The Scot's title challenge is all but scuppered.

[ image: Hill: Doubt over 1996 champion's future]
Hill: Doubt over 1996 champion's future
"It's going to be incredibly difficult after another non-points scoring race. But I'll keep trying and trying to imporve," he said.

"Mika's a very quick driver and he's had more luck than me, but that's motor racing." While Johnny Herbert celebrated his first points finish of the season in front of Ford, the Stewart team's new owner, another Briton cut a lonely figure.

Damon Hill's accident will inevitably raise questions about his future.

Team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was detained overnight in hospital as a precaution after his accident, is regularly quicker than Hill and getting more out of the car.

Jordan's big money backers may not be tolerant for much longer.

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Formula 1 Contents

In this section

Toyota set to join F1

Irvine's $2m miss

Hakkinen crowned F1 champion

Finn toasts team success

1999 Championship standings

Ferrari dream in tatters

F1's emotional champion

Dreams shattered in Irvine's home village

Grand Prix's favourite son

Mika's glory: Japanese GP in pictures

Top cat Eddie

The best man won

Damon Hill: An F1 career in pictures

Silverstone to stage F1 Easter parade