The 1995 French GP: Michael Schumacher’s 14th Career Win
The 1995 F1 Season
Coming out of the Canadian GP, where neither of the title leaders, Schumacher and Hill, had a great outing, all eyes were on the French GP. Schumacher finished a lowly fifth while Hill retired from the race at Canada. Jean Alesi won that GP, his sole F1 victory. However, the rather exciting part was the piggyback he got to the pits on Schumacher’s car.
Take a look at the video here.
You can read more about the 1995 Canadian GP here.
The French GP promised to be a great race to continue the rivalry between Schumacher and Hill as there was hardly any point difference between the two. Schumacher at 36 points led Hill (at 29 points) by seven points. That difference could be exhausted if Hill won the next two races, and to add to that the Williams car was still the best on the track.
Schumacher was expected to be the one playing catch-up on track while Hill would be the one playing catch-up on points. So, how would the race pan out?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
The Ferrari team was the third competitive team in the 1995 season and regularly made it to the podium.
However, the Schumacher-Hill rivalry created so many sound bites that everything else was barely noticed.
The 1995 French GP Qualifying
In line with the other races of the 1995 season, the qualifying was expected to be a close contest between Benetton and the Williams team; specifically, between Schumacher and Hill. The two gentlemen lived up to the expectation and traded pole lap after pole lap.
Just when the pole appeared to be Schumacher’s, Hill came back with a cracker of a lap. Take a look at the qualifying laps being traded between Schumacher and Hill.
Schumacher did attempt to better Hill’s time, but the day belonged to Damon. So, Hill was on P1 nearly 0.3 seconds ahead of Schumacher on P2. Now, it was to be seen how the grid positions translated on track during the race.
The 1995 French GP – Race Day
At the green lights, Hill pulled away cleanly ahead of Schumacher and the rest of the cars. The first couple of laps gave the impression that Hill had the pace and would remain unchallenged. However, after two laps or so, Schumacher came into his own. He was incredibly fast and on the tail of Hill at almost every corner. Everyone wondered if the Benetton was on a three-stop strategy and hence carrying a lesser fuel load.
Schumacher continued pummelling the rearview mirror of Hill until the eighteenth lap where he pitted for fuel. Damon continued on track, which on hindsight, was a wrong move. Damon was caught in traffic while Schumacher had a clear track after the pitstop. As such, Schumacher could easily make up some time and take the lead when Hill went into the pits, and that’s precisely what happened.
Here is the full race video of the 1995 French GP for those who would like to go back and live the experience.
Note: The audio is not in English. You can mute and watch. Do notice how aggressive Schumacher is in the first few laps behind Hill.
Once Schumacher got ahead of Hill after the pits, he stayed there and went on to win the French GP. He eventually, won the race more than half a minute ahead of Hill. Interestingly, the Benetton was on a two-stop strategy, much like the other teams, so the car was indeed fast or was driven fast by the pilot. Either way, it ensured another win for Schumacher.
With the win, Schumacher was eleven points clear of Hill and had a better gap than before the French GP. They still had a long way to go as the season was just around the midway mark.
Did You Know?
Michael Schumacher won the most French GPs in the history of Formula 1. He won at the circuit 8 times bettering Alain Prost’s 6.
That record still stands.
Back to the Pits
Schumacher was getting better as the season progressed and the Benetton-Schumi combination was once again looking lethal. At the beginning of the season, Williams held the advantage but lost it rapidly to Schumacher’s juggernaut.
Despite having a technologically superior car, it was for Williams to figure out how to win races when Schumacher was around!
© 2020 S K