The 1995 Japanese GP: Michael Schumacher’s 19th Career Win
The 1995 F1 Season
Michael came into the penultimate Japanese GP as the new world champion. There was nothing much left in the season other than winning the constructors’ championship title for the Benetton team. That was, anyway, Michael's stated intention as they got ready for the Japanese GP at Suzuka.
Schumacher wanting to win the title for Benetton garnered a lot of respect, as it was well known that he would be moving over to Ferrari the next season. In fact, even before the Pacific GP, it was known that Michael would be joining Ferrari for the 1996 season. As such, there was nothing left to prove to the Benetton team other than Michael genuinely wanting Benetton to win; a team man to the core!
While the conditions at Suzuka were expected to be close to those at Aida, there was a possibility of rain. Besides, Williams would be looking to end the season with wins which would effectively make Schumacher’s and Benetton’s job that much harder. The constructors championship was still open if Williams won the Japanese GP and later the Australian GP.
So, it was still an all-out battle. Could Michael and the Benetton team do it?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
After registering his ninth win at the 1995 Japanese GP, Schumacher equalled Nigel Mansell's record of 9 wins in a season.
His tenth win in the season-ending Australia GP appeared imminent but for the crash with Alesi. That collision left the most wins in a season record unchanged.
The 1995 Japanese GP Qualifying
The Japanese GP qualifying at the Suzuka circuit was way different from the qualifying at the Pacific GP, also at Aida, Japan. Within a matter of a week, through either the lack of confidence of the Williams team or the sheer brilliance of the new world champion, Michael Schumacher and the Benetton team shone through. As such, any expectation of a similar qualifying result as Aida was quickly dismissed.
Michael Schumacher put on a blistering qualifying pace which was more than a second clear of Damon Hill in the first of the Williams. In fact, such was Michael’s pace that the second-placed Ferrari of Jean Alesi was eight-tenths of a second slower. That was a considerable qualifying time difference. The Williams team had lost the plot as even Mika in a comparatively slower McLaren qualified in third place ahead of Damon in fourth.
Here is a drivers’ view of the qualifying laps:
Note: Michael’s qualifying lap comes up at 9:30 minutes. That was the hottest lap of the day.
After the qualifying, Michael mentioned that the team had put up an excellent package and the car was better than the ones he drove through the season. On the other hand, Damon was in loss for words and expected to figure out the reason for their below-average performance. However, he was kind enough to acknowledge Michael’s superb performance through the qualifying.
Did You Know?
Schumacher’s record-equaling nine wins in the 1995 season remained so until 2000 when Schumacher once again won 9 races.
It did not end there. Schumacher then won nine races in the 2001 season, eleven races in 2002, and the record-breaking thirteen races in 2004. The 13 wins in a single season record still stands.
The 1995 Japanese GP—Race Day
Race day was a damp affair, and almost all the cars started on wet-weather tyres. The Williams were expected to fight back to wrestle the constructors’ championship from the Benetton’s clutches.
At the turn of the lights, Schumacher got away clean and so did the rest of the field. The positions remained unchanged with Alesi and Hakkinen closely following Schumacher. Jean Alesi looked good in the Ferrari, but his attack on Schumacher was short-lived as he had to take a 10-second penalty for a jump-start. That left Schumacher clear of the field and in a race of his own.
Take a look at the race summary here:
At the first pitstop, Schumacher changed to slicks and made good use of the drying track to extend his lead. The Williams’ challenge did not last long as both Damon and David Coulthard spun-off in consecutive laps only to retire. With not a single Williams car on the track, the constructors’ championship appeared well in the grasp of the Benettons. Few laps later, Johnny Herbert in third place, ensured that the constructors’ title came home to the Benettons.
So, that’s how the race ended with Michael taking his ninth victory of the season followed by Mika Hakkinen in the McLarens and Johnny Herbert in the second Benetton. Benetton was the 1995 Constructors’ Champion!
Did You Know?
Schumacher shares the record for most wins in a season with fellow German, Sebastian Vettel. Schumacher won 13 races in 2004 while Vettel won 13 races in 2013.
The only difference was that Schumacher won 13 races out of a total of 18 GPs in the season while Sebastian had a total of 19 GPs.
The 1995 Australian GP – Season Ending Race
Schumacher at the 1995 Australian GP did not have any better luck than the 1994 outing. Michael once again retired from the race due to a crash, only this time it was with Jean Alesi. And many would agree that the crash was a result of Jean Alesi’s mistake despite Schumacher having a clear line.
Take a look at the video:
Note: Watch from 1:15 minutes to see the accident.
Damon Hill went on to win the race. He was the only one of the qualifying leaders to finish in the top 6. There were only eight finishers in the race and not one driver from the Benetton, Ferrari or the Williams (barring Damon). It was a race of attrition and finally, was curtains down on the 1995 season.
A season well-finished for Michael Schumacher and the Benetton team!
Back to the Pits
Schumacher, the world champion, ensured that Benetton finished as champions too. What’s more, it happened to be the first title for the Benetton team. The 1996 season would see Schumacher move to Ferrari while the Ferrari drivers, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, would move to Benetton.
It would be interesting to know Schumacher’s performance under the new banner (Ferrari). Would he still be a world-beater? We’ll soon find out.
Questions & Answers
© 2020 S K