The start of the race was catastrophic for the Sauber team, with both of their drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert eliminated immediately after a collision at the first corner while trying to avoid hitting Olivier Panis, who was attempting to rejoin the track having spun off at the same corner in a separate incident when he ran into Rubens Barrichello. Panis was also forced to retire on the spot; Barrichello was able to continue, although he had to pit to repair his suspension, putting him two laps behind; however, this proved all to no avail as his suspension collapsed completely on lap 29, forcing him out of the race altogether.
On lap 10, Jos Verstappen pitted with a sticking throttle. No damage was found and the Dutchman was released from the pits, but spun straight off on his return. The incident brought out the safety car for seven laps, during which time all the drivers besides the McLarens of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard (both running a one-stop strategy) made pit stops
Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve, leading the race when the safety car came out, missed his stop on lap 13 (later explaining that he misunderstood the radio instruction to come in due to the confusion brought about by the arrival of the safety car), and Damon Hill in the sister Williams was already on his way into the pits when radioed to stay out on the following lap. Having been forced to ground his car near the pit lane entrance, Hill was held stationary by the marshalls until the track cleared. He continued with the aid of a push start, but went down to thirteenth when he finally got to make his pit stop on lap 16; however, he eventually recovered to 5th place by the end of the race, partly due to David Coulthard spinning his McLaren out of 5th place six laps from the end.
Footwork/Arrows' team boss Tom Walkinshaw confirmed after the race that the throttle problem that had caused Verstappen to stop shortly before his crash had not recurred, and that the crash was caused by a faulty wheel.
The Tyrrells of Mika Salo and Ukyo Katayama finished in seventh and eighth places respectively. A fast early stop during the safety car period saw Salo running as high as third at one point.
Running in fourth place at half distance, Gerhard Berger spun off in his Benetton while trying to pass Eddie Irvine and grounded his car near the pit lane entrance, in a similar manner to Damon Hill's stoppage on lap 14 - as a result the marshals held Berger stationary until the track was clear, which dropped him to 12th place. Berger continued with the aid of a push start, and after setting a string of fastest laps he eventually recovered, coincidentally thanks in part to Irvine's retirement with gearbox problems, to 6th place by the end of the race.