As discussed in the previous articles, 1994 was a season of tragedy for F1 as Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives at the San Marino Grand Prix. The season also saw Michael claim the first of his record 7 championships.
Schumi started the season on a high winning the Brazilian Grand Prix. He gained the lead after the first pitstop with Senna spinning out on lap 56 resulted in a comfortable win. He secured a second consecutive win at the Pacific Grand Prix where only 11 racers finished the race.
Despite the tragic series of events at San Marino, Michael maintained his focus to win three on the bounce. Schumacher secured his first ever pole in F1 at the next race at Monaco and won the race easily. After this race, the FIA made it mandatory for all cars to adopt a series of changes to improve safety. Benetton opposes it but were forced to adopt anyways.
Schumacher again grabbed a pole in Spain and finishes 2nd on Sunday following a remarkable drive with his car struck in 5th gear for over 2/3rds of the race. The 6th and 7th races of the season from Canada and France again witness Schumacher wins, making it 6/7 for the season so far. With 10 races to go in the season, Schumi had established a 37 point lead in the standings over his closest rival Damon Hill who represented Williams-Renault.
The British Grand Prix was where the season began to turn. Schumi, starting 2nd, overtook Hill on the formation/parade lap (a move which is not allowed in F1) and was given a 5 stop-gogo penaltyuring the race as a punishment. Schumi ignored the punishment as instructed by the team and was shown black flag during the race. He again ignored this and continued to race. After the race, Benetton negotiated the punishment and the black flag decision was revoked and Schumi retained the 2nd place. However, a couple of weeks later, the FIA stripped Michael from the 2nd place and banned him for 2 more races for ignoring the black flag.
Benetton again appealed the decision and the pending hearing allowed Schumi to race in his home Grand Prix in Germany, but the move had no benefit as Michael retired from the race with an engine failure. He bounced back to win the next Grand Prix in Hungary.
The 11th race of the season from Belgium was where the chips really began to fall for Michael, as despite winning the race, he was disqualified as the safety wooden boarded on his car had worn away more than the permissible 10%.
To compound misery, his appeal against the ban pending from Britain was stated unsuccessful resulting in him missing the next two races from Italy and Portugal. Hill won both these races reducing Michael’s lead at the top of the stands to a single point, with Michael at 76. The third last race of the season from Jerez saw Michael return to secure victory and increase his lead over Hill to 5 points in the standings who finished 2nd. The penultimate race from Japan saw a reversal of results and Hill turned the tables.
Hence, Michael headed into the final race of the season from Australia at 92 points with Hill only one behind at 91. With Satuday’s qualifying washed away due to rain, Schumi starts from 2nd on the grid and Hill was behind him in 3rd with Mansell on the pole. Michael grabbed the lead in lap one with Hill in 2nd after Mansell fell behind. That’s how it stayed till lap 36 when a mistake from Michael brushed his car against the wall leading to serious damage.
As he regained control, Hill approached from behind and attempted an overtake into the next corner. Schumi, who was in no mood to give up the lead, closed the door driving his car into the Williams before meeting the barrier and ending his race. Hill could only make it to the pit lane before retiring, hence securing the title for Michael in controversial fashion.
After the race Michael claimed that his steering wheel had broken after hitting the wall. It was a tainted victory as many claimed that Michael had deliberately crashed into Hill as he knew his own car was not in a condition to finish the race.
However, FIA could not find sufficient evidence for the same and Williams did not protest too as they were still reeling from Senna’s death. Michael, aged 25 became, the first German driver to win the title and laid the foundation stones to the domination which had only just started.