The 1994 European GP: Michael Schumacher’s 10th Career Win
The 1994 F1 Season
The 1994 season was a mixed bag for Michael Schumacher with a generous dose of victories intertwined with a couple of bans and a couple of disqualifications. Following his win in the Hungarian GP, Michael won again in Belgium. However, he was disqualified, as the wooden stepped board under the car had worn out more than the permissible limit of 10%. To add insult to injury, the race bans, which had been withheld since the British GP on account of Benetton’s appeal, came out against the team. This loss meant that Schumacher would be banned from participating in Italy and Portugal.
The race bans were not such a piece of bad news for the Williams. Damon Hill won the Belgium, Italian and Portugal GP. As such, Damon made thirty points versus zero for Schumacher. The massive points advantage that Schumacher had built at the beginning of the season had fizzled out. When the teams arrived at the European GP, Schumacher led Damon Hill by just one point. At least, as a consolation, Schumacher was still the championship leader.
The European GP was critical for both Damon and Schumacher. As Damon himself put it, it would be wise to forget whatever happened before the European GP and look at the remaining three races only. That’s what would decide the championship.
Taking a cue, let’s jump straight into the European GP.
Did You Know?
Schumacher experienced two disqualifications and two race bans in the 1994 season. Damon Hill won each of these four races.
That was how Hill closed the 37-point lead that Schumacher had built early on in the season to just 1 point before the European GP.
The 1994 European GP Qualifying
With Schumacher’s return from the race bans, the European GP witnessed sparks flying between the Benetton and Williams pits. Neither team wanted to back-off, now that the championship had become such a close affair.
The qualifying went on expected lines, with Damon and Michael sparring over the best times. Michael eventually took pole from Damon and appeared right back in the game. Now, it depended on their performance on the race-day.
Here is a look at Damon’s first qualifying run.
Later, Damon would come up with the best time of 1:22.892 and take P2. Schumacher ended with 1:22.762 to take pole.
The 1994 European GP – Race Day
The close contest between the Williams and the Benettons attracted record crowds. Schumacher was positioned well to take the win if he could get away ahead of the rest of the pack. The Jerez circuit made it difficult to overtake, and hence getting a good start was the best thing for any driver.
As the lights turned green, it was Damon who had a spectacular start. Damon led the race closely followed by Michael. Even Nigel Mansell on P3 had a poor start, falling back to the fifth position. The real battle was at the front of the pack, and the leaders quickly pulled away from the rest.
Take a look at the start of the GP and the race:
Note: The race starts at 1:25 minutes.
Despite the great start, Damon did not have luck going his way. At the first pitstop, Damon faced issues with refuelling and had to come back again soon. These two stops gave away the lead to Schumacher, who accepted it with great pleasure.
Then the German did what he knew best – put lightning laps after another. By the time Schumacher went in for his last stop, he had opened up a lead of 36 seconds; enough to allow him to pit and come out ahead of Damon.
After that, it was the customary keeping the pace till the end of the race. Schumacher finished nearly 25 seconds ahead of Hill, much to the delight of the fans. The season once again witnessed a yo-yo in the points table with Schumi gaining four points over Hill. There were only two races left for the season and everything to compete for.
Did You Know?
By the end of the 1994 season, Schumacher had won 8 races, astounding for a driver who had an underdog in the 1993 season. In fact, Schumacher would have won 9 races, if he had not been disqualified in one (Belgium GP).
How Did the 1994 Season Conclude?
The European GP was the last win for Schumacher in the 1994 season. Hill won the subsequent Japanese GP while Schumacher finished in second place. That meant that Schumacher still led the championship by one point. And then the two teams battled in the famous final race at Adelaide.
Those interested to read more about the final race of the 1994 season at Adelaide can do so here.
In short, Schumacher became the world-champion in 1994 by one point.
Back to the Pits
By the end of the European GP, Schumacher had won eight races and appeared all set to win the championship. He did win the title but was criticized for the way he won.
Playing the devil’s advocate, Schumacher too was at the receiving end for odd reasons. The race bans for passing Damon on the parade lap of the British GP was harsh. The disqualification at the same British GP when Benetton was appealing the penalty was strict too. Besides, Schumacher had won more races as compared to Damon in that season; Schumacher had eight while Damon had six. While all these points were not to justify or judge the final race collision, it does offer another perspective to the season.
Either way, Michael won his first world title, and as he had put it, everyone knew that that season belonged to Senna, and so, he offered his championship to Senna.
Adeus Senna! We will remember you forever!
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© 2020 S K