The 1995 Belgian GP: Michael Schumacher’s 16th Career Win
The 1995 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher led title rival Damon Hill by eleven points as they prepared for the Belgian GP. In the previous race in Hungary, Michael was all set to finish in second place; however, his engine gave way, and he had to retire just a couple of laps from the finish. That retirement, coupled with Hill’s win, narrowed the gap to only eleven points from twenty-one.
Michael still had won more races than Hill in the season, and he would be vying for the top spot again at the Belgian GP. The Spa circuit remained a special one for Michael considering that this was the circuit where he debuted and also won his first race in 1992.
Could Michael work his magic on the circuit once again?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
The 1995 Belgian GP was the first instance in the 1995 season of both Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill qualifying lesser than the front two rows of the grid.
The 1995 Belgian GP Qualifying
The Belgian GP qualifying was one unpredictable affair. The qualifying teams not only had to figure out the sequence of the run but also the time the cars should go out. The reason for the latter was the rain and drying track conditions. While the initial period was rain-lashed, the latter part saw the circuit dry up.
The drying circuit had put the Williams and Benetton team in a dilemma. Should they risk sending Hill and Schumacher, respectively, out for the run or risk holding them back and end up in a rain situation? Whatever the decision was, on hindsight, it did not work well for either team. Hill qualified eighth while Schumacher qualified sixteenth. This qualifying session was the only instance in the 1995 season where Schumacher’s teammate Johnny Herbert out-qualified him.
Both Damon and Michael had to fight past the other cars on race day, while the teams had to strategise and be ready for the rains.
So, let’s jump on to race day to figure out what happened.
The 1995 Belgian GP – Race Day
Race day was no different from qualifying, and the teams had to strategize how they would tackle the weather. Showers were expected through the race, and the wet weather tyres were kept on stand-by.
The race, however, started in dry conditions, and that gave Hill and Schumacher ample ammunition to charge through the circuit overtaking all the cars. The number one spot kept changing between Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi and David Coulthard. David’s Williams was the only one which appeared to be capable of keeping the top spot until the engine gave up.
David’s retirement allowed Hill to the top, and by that time Michael Schumacher was in the second spot. So, the two title contenders figured out a way to the top; a place they had gotten used to in the entire 1995 season.
Here is the full version of the race for fans to watch – time permitting.
Just when it appeared to be a straight-out fight between Schumacher and Hill, the rain gods intervened. The sudden burst of rain set the race up once again. The wet conditions allowed the Ferraris and Ligers to match the Williams and Benettons' performance.
Damon pitted for wet weather tyres while Schumacher stayed out on slicks. The conditions not improving allowed Hill to catch up with Schumacher who held him back despite being on slick. You can watch that fight around the 54-minute mark in the video. Hill eventually went past, but that particular encounter was deemed dangerous play by Michael Schumacher, and he was handed a one-race suspended ban.
The Belgian GP though belonged to Michael, and he won it nineteen seconds ahead of Hill. The Williams team got the prediction on tyre changes wrong which played well into the hands of the Benetton team. This situation was reminiscent of Prost’s rain saga in Donnington in 1993 where Senna in a far inferior McLaren won the race because of Williams’ wrong calls on the rain tyre changes.
Did You Know?
Michael Schumacher had had two remarkable driving encounters on the Spa circuit: one in 1995 against Damon Hill and the other in 2000 against Mika Hakkinen.
In both the years, the track witnessed wet and dry conditions, and in both cases, Damon and Mika eventually overtook Michael.
However, the race where Mika overtook Michael was one of the all-time great manoeuvers in F1.
Michael Schumacher’s Spa Overtake Saga
Michael Schumacher’s encounters at Spa resulted in two great overtakes, one against Damon Hill in 1995, which can be seen here.
Hill passes Schumacher at the 6:40 minute mark. Do have a look.
Also, five years later in 2000, Mika Hakkinen overtook Schumacher at the same spot. Have a look at that overtake.
This one, though, is one of the greatest overtakes that any F1 driver would have effected. And in this case, it was against Michael Schumacher, which makes it even more special. The only difference between the two overtakes is that Schumacher still won the 1995 Belgian GP while Mika won the 2000 Belgian GP.
Mika the King!
Back to the Pits
With the win, Schumacher was fifteen points clear of Damon Hill. However, the season was still a close contest, and both William and Benetton teams would have fancied their chances of winning the championship.
Six more races were remaining, and both the team would have pulled up their sleeves to make it work for their respective drivers. As for Michael Schumacher, he had one more win at Spa, the circuit where he had his first win!
© 2020 S K