OTD: Schumacher wins first title in controversial circumstances

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Schumacher

Nothing that we say is going to make Michael Schumacher seem more legendary than he already is. The German racing legend is statistically F1’s best driver (though he makes more than a decent case for being the best technically too).

Schumacher won seven championships in total, five of them in a row with Ferrari during 2000-2004, and even made a not-so-memorable comeback with Mercedes in 2010, partnering countryman, Nico Rosberg. He won two titles with Benetton too, in 1994 and 1995, with the first of them coming today.

Schumacher
Michael Schumacher won 91 races in his career

However, it was not all hunky-dory for the German prodigy as the title was not decided until the last race in Australia (it used to be the season-ender those days) and Schumacher was battling it out with Damon Hill, who himself came in with the weight of the legacy of a champion father in Graham Hill.

The situation was precarious as Schumacher was ahead of Hill by only a single point going into the race, so whoever finished ahead would take the title. It was a monumental event for both of them; for Hill it was to carry on his father’s legacy while for Schumacher it was a chance to win the title in just his third year, with a not-so-quick Benetton.

Schumacher qualified second behind Nigel Mansell and Hill lined up third. The German took the lead at the start and Hill followed him, with both maintaining their positions until lap 36. Hill caught up to the Benetton and attempted to make the decisive pass.

Schumacher blocked it off but went off track, hitting the wall in the next corner with Hill in close pursuit. The Brit made a move on the inside but the Benetton ahead of him turned in, squeezing him into the wall and retiring from the race.

Hill continued but could not race as he had damaged his front suspension. Both recorded a DNF, and that was enough for Schumacher to take the title by a solitary point, the first of many to follow. Here is the video of the infamous incident:

Hill was understandably furious, as can be seen at the end of the video and he had to wait for two more years to win his sole title in 1996, with Williams. He was dropped after that season and never quite raced with a fast car again.

The race was eventually won by pole-sitter Mansell, the last of his 31 wins. Another peculiar thing about the season was that Hill raced with the number 0 on his car.

 

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