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The 1994 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher’s bullet-proof start to the season had a few hiccups. In the British GP, Schumacher passed Damon Hill in the parade lap, which was not allowed as per regulation. He did let Damon go back to his position before the start of the race, but still, Schumacher was handed a five seconds penalty. Sadly, the team asked him to continue as they were still appealing the sentence. At the end of three laps, he was shown a black flag for non-compliance to the penalty. In other words, he was asked to retire. The team, though, asked Schumi to take the penalty and continue. Despite Schumi finishing second, he was disqualified after the race.
If that was not enough, the Benettons were found to have modified the fuel rig, allowing them unfair time advantage while fuelling. The modification came to light at the back of this incident:
Jos Verstappen was lucky to have gotten out safe from the accident. And that was not all; the Benettons were criticised for having illegal traction control codes still embedded in their software. The codes meant that they could have used traction control unfairly, while the other cars, as per the 1994 regulation were not allowed traction control. All these events had an impact on Schumacher’s position too. If found guilty in the case of the fuel rig modification, the FIA could ban the team for the entire year. Luckily, they were acquitted.
The team reached Hungary in the shadow of all these events. So, Schumacher had to refocus and get back to his winning ways. The Williams and Ferraris, though, had no complaints. They were going strong, and the only advantage that Michael had was the overall lead that he had opened up at the beginning of the season.
Could the Hungarian GP work in Schumacher’s favour?
Let’s find out.
The 1994 Hungarian GP Qualifying
All eyes were on the Benettons and Schumacher after the controversies which had erupted over the past few weeks. The concerns notwithstanding, Schumacher went out to do what he did best. He drove the Benetton to pole, and the blistering pace was too hot to handle.
Such was Schumacher’s pace that he qualified half a second ahead of Damon Hill on P2. Interestingly, Damon himself had qualified nearly one-and-a-half-second ahead of David Coulthard. So, Damon and Schumacher were in a league of their own and even within that, Schumacher was way ahead.
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Schumacher appeared to have put the events of the past behind him. Now, it was all about the race day.
The 1994 Hungarian GP – Race Day
The race was expected to go ahead just the way the fans had grown to like it – Schumacher dominating proceedings. Schumacher did not fail to impress, but had a minor starting trouble. Hill had a great start and shot ahead of Schumacher. However, Schumi caught up with Hill before the first corner and took the lead back.
Take a look at the start of the GP and the race:
Note: The race starts at 1:25 minutes.
Once Schumi took the lead, he got on with his customary opening up a gap in front of the second-place car. His car did have some extra pace over the Williams as the Benetton was running low on fuel. Low fuel because Schumi was running on a three-stop strategy as against two-stop for the Williams. So, Schumi’s lighter car was running around the track at lightning speed.
Because of the Benetton strategy, Schumacher almost always pitted and came out ahead of the Williams. He led the race from start to finish and in doing so, brought in his seventh win of the season. After a momentary lapse in his winning ways, Schumacher was back to the top of the podium. Not only that but he also continued to stay clear of the Williams by thirty-one points.
Back to the Pits
After the 1994 Hungarian GP, non-statistically speaking, Schumacher was well-set to win the championship. His 31 points lead over Damon Hill could hardly be challenged. Even if Hill won all the remaining six races, Schumacher only had to ensure that he finished second; that assuming Hill won every single race.
But the season took an unexpected turn after the Hungarian GP. It was an exciting phase for the Williams team and the fans, at the expense of the Benettons. The season was far from over!
The Next Win..
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