FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
1982 is often remembered as one of the most bizarre and tragic F1 seasons but 1994 is close on it's tail. Alain Prost won the World Drivers Championship in 1993 at the wheel of the super technical Williams FW15C. For 1994 most of the technical wizardry, such as active suspension, traction control, power steering and power brakes were outlawed. This made the '94 cars very different beasts to the cars in 1993 and much less stable than their predecessors.

Constructors Champions Williams had signed Ayrton Senna from McLaren for 1994 and this led Alain Prost to retire. As many know the relationship between the two men was less than harmonious and Alain felt he had little else to prove behind the wheel of an F1 car with four World Championships and 51 race wins. Ayrton was still very driven but reading some of the history of this season one of Senna's key drivers was the need to beat Alain and on more than one occasion he asked Prost to come back and race against him.

Williams kept Damon Hill in the No. 2 seat and Damon carried the Zero on his car, as he had in 1993 as the World Champion wasn't competing so there was no number one car. McLaren replaced Senna with Mika Hakkinen and put Martin Brundle in the second seat, now with Peugoet engines rather than the Ford motors used in 1993.

The biggest challenge to the Williams team was to come from Michael Schumacher and the Benetton Ford team. This was to be a controversial season for both the driver and the team with suggestions that Benetton were not complying with rules regarding electronic driver aids and Schumacher was excluded from two races (more of that later).

14 teams entered the 1994 season and 46 drivers competed at some point during the year. 1994 also saw the return of Mercedes to F1, their first season in the sport since 1955, as engine supplier to the Sauber team. The cars were powered by engines from 8 different manufacturers with the Renault and Ford motors being the class of the field.

Below is the end of season driver photo, sadly very different to the one from the start of the season.



The season started in Brazil and to the delight of the home crowd their hero, Ayrton Senna, put his FW16 Williams on pole. Senna led at the start of the race but Schumacher jumped him at the pit stops. An incident on lap 35 saw an accident involving Eddie Irvine in the Jordan. Irvine was found to be at fault for launching Martin Brundle into a barrel roll and was banned from the next races. The Jordan team appealed, lost and Irvine's ban was extended to 3 races. Up at the front Senna was trying everything he knew to try and catch Schumacher but ended his race trying a bit too hard, spinning off on lap 56. Hill followed the German home whilst down in 6th Karl Wendlinger scored a point for Mercedes on their return to F1.

F1 has a strange habit of staging regional Grands Prix, presumably as the race promoters pay FOM sufficient cash to buy a race, and in 1994 there was a Pacific GP staged at Aidia in Japan and a European at Jerez. The Pacific race was up next. Senna was again on pole but was nurfed out of the race when spun by Mika Hakkinen and then hit by Nicola Larini who was deputising for Jean Alesi in the Ferrari. Schumacher won again, Berger was second in the Ferrari, Hill retired his Williams on lap 50 with transmission failure having worked his way back to second after dropping to ninth in the early stages of the race.

Imola.

What is there to say about this race that hasn't already been said? As an F1 fan since the late 70's I had seen accidents which led to the death of a driver but this hadn't happened since 1982. The event started badly with Rubens Barrichello having a huge crash in his Jordan. The Brazilian was knocked unconscious but had no other significant injuries. He wasn't allowed to race for the remainder of the weekend. In Saturday qualifying season d├ębutante Roland Ratzenberger in the Simtek had a front wing failure and hit a concrete wall at a speed estimated at 190mph. The Austrian didn't survive. F1 was in shock, drivers didn't die in F1 cars anymore, or so we thought.

As ever in F1, even such tragic events are pushed to the back of drivers minds and the event continued. Senna was on pole Schumacher second. There was a race to win, points to be gained, titles to be fought over. At the start of the race Pedro Lamy ran into the back of JJ Lehto's Benetton which had stalled on the grid. This bought out the safety car which led the train around for four laps. At the restart Senna powered away in the lead, next time around his Williams went off the road at Tamburello and hit the concrete wall at the edge of the circuit. The race was red flagged, medical teams descended on the broken Williams. Senna was extracted from the car and taken to hospital after treatment at the circuit but he had suffered a major brain injury. He was placed on life support at the hospital but when this was removed that evening Senna died.

The race was restarted at 2:55 local time and the result would be aggregated over the two parts of the race. In what I still feel was one of the bravest acts by a GP driver Damon Hill was strapped into the cockpit of his Williams with no idea of the cause of his team mates accident. Berger led at the restart and Schumacher and Hill had a coming together which resulted in the Englishman having to pit for a new nose. Schumacher won the race ahead of Nicola Larini in the Ferrari. Mika Hakkinen was third and Damon Hill came back through the field to take a single point for sixth.

At Monaco the first two grid slots were left empty and the places painted with the Brazilian and Austrian flags to commemorate Senna and Ratzenberger. The FIA announced a variety of technical changes to improve driver safety which would be implemented in Spain and Canada. In free practice Karl Wendlinger had a huge accident in his Sauber which left him in a coma for 3 weeks. Sauber withdrew their cars from the rest of the weekend. Williams only entered a single car for Damon Hill but announced that the second car would be driven test driver David Coulthard and Nigel Mansell, when Mansell's Indycar commitments allowed. Schumacher took pole, Hill and Hakkinen tangled on the first lap, eliminating both. Schumacher went on to win the race with Martin Brundle second after choosing a different strategy to most of the other drivers. Away from the race, Pedro Lamy had an accident in testing for Lotus, dislocating his legs and breaking his wrist. Lotus announced that Alex Zannardi would replace him.

In Spain it was decided to introduce a temporary tyre chicane to reduce the speed of the cars. Personally, seeing F1 cars tiptoeing through a bunch of tyres piled up on the track is amongst the most ridiculous things I have seen in F1 but in the climate at that time no one complained.



Andrea Montermini, who replaced Roland Ratzenberger, had a accident which broke his ankle and chipped a bone in his heel in free practice. Schumacher took pole and was comfortably leading the race until he had gear selection problems. Left with only 5th the German continued and even managed to stop in the pits twice and get the car away without stalling. With only one gear Damon Hill easily passed Schumacher but at the end he was still second as other cars fell by the wayside. An astonishing achievement

In Canada another temporary chicane was installed and the various changes to the cars implemented. These included reduction in the size of the diffusers and front wing, improved driver head protection by raising the sides of the cockpit, increase in the weight of the car and strengthening of the wishbones. Holes were also cut in to the airboxes to try and reduce the power of the cars. Schumacher took pole and won the race, Hill was second.

For the French GP Nigel Mansell came back to Williams and was second on the grid to Hill. At the start Schumacher powered between the two Williams cars and never lost the lead. Mansell retired with transmission failure towards the end of the race, Hill followed Schumacher home. On the video below fast forward to about 7 minutes in and watch the speed the Benetton has compared to the Williams off the start line. There had been lots of rumours and muttering about Benetton using both a launch control system and traction control which were specifically prohibited. Events like this certainly didn't help quieten the rumours.


At Silverstone Damon Hill, much to the delight of the crowd, put his Williams on pole. During the formation lap, for whatever reason, Michael Schumacher decided to pass Hill and then let him back in front as they came to form up on the grid. After an aborted first start, due to Coulthard (now back in the Williams) stalling, the race got underway. As a result of not obeying the start procedure Schumacher was given a 5 second stop-go penalty. Benetton took offence at this and started negotiations with the race officials, instructing Schumacher to keep going. As a result of not serving the penalty within 3 laps Schumacher was black flagged. Benetton continued to ignore the officials and Schumie followed Damon home in second place. After the race Schumacher was disqualified and was given a two race ban. This was held on appeal and Schumacher took part in the next race in Germany.

The German crowd were to be disappointed for their hero Schumacher when Ferrari locked out the front row in Hockenheim. There was complete mayhem at the start and 10 cars failed to make it round the first lap. Damon Hill had a coming together with Ukyo Katayam's Tyrrell on the first lap and had to pit for a new nose, forcing David Coulthard to circulate for a second lap with a damaged car from the start line incident. Schumacher retired on lap 20 when his engine failed and Gerhard Berger went on to win the race. Behind the Ferrari the top six was made up of the two Ligiers, the two Footwork cars and the Larousse of Eric Comas. The other major incident of the race involved Jos Verstappen, who had taken over the second Benneton seat from JJ Lehto. During his pit stop the Benetton erupted in to flames. Jos was able to escape the car but it was yet another frightening incident for the 1994 season.



In Hungary Phillipe Alliot replaced Mika Hakkinen at McLaren who was banned for one race for causing the start line incident in Germany. Schumacher took pole, Schumacher won the race with Hill second. Jos Verstappen, sporting a very singed face, came home third.



Meanwhile, both Benetton and McLaren were up before the beak, Benetton for removing the filter from their fuel filling rig and McLaren for using an automatic up-change on their gearbox. Both teams were acquitted although the Benetton incident did nothing to help the rumours of them cheating.

For the Belgian GP at Spa Eau Rouge was turned into a Chicane by painting lines on the road. A wet/dry qualifying in Spa allowed Rubens Barrichello to take pole, the first for both him and the Jordan team in F1. The excitement and pressure of being so high up in the race, however, was more than Rubens could cope with and he span out from third on lap 20. Schumacher won, Hill was second and Hakkinen, back from his ban, third. It didn't end there though. After the race the plank on the underside of Schumacher's car was deemed to have worn by more than the 10% limit allowed and he was excluded, promoting Hill to victory.



The FIA finally made a decision on Benneton's appeal against Schumacher's black flag at Silverstone and the German was excluded from the next two races in Italy and Portugal. JJ Lehto replaced Schumie. Damon Hill celebrated this even by winning both of the races and starting a challenge for the drivers title. In Italy Williams should have take a 1-2 but David Coulthard run short of fuel on the final lap so ended up classified as sixth. Coulthard led in Portugal but got a bit wayward overtaking a back marker allowing Damon through for the win.

Eddie Irvine managed another race ban, this time suspended for three races, after an incident at the first corner which eliminated Jonny Herbert in the Lotus. Team Lotus filed an administration order after the Italian GP and were wound up in early 1995. Jonny Herbert's contract with Lotus was bought by Tom Walkinshaw who put him into the LIgier team and then placed him in the second car at Benetton.

Schumacher was back for the Grand Prix of Europe at Jerez, Mansell was back for the remainder of the season at Williams and there were other new faces on the grid with Hideki Noda at Larousse and Domineco Schiattarella at Simtek. Remember them? No, nether do I. Schumacher pole. Schumacher win although Damon did lead for a while. However, Williams panicked at his pit stop and sent him out with insufficient fuel so he had to stop again later in the race. Schumacher now led the WDC by 5 points from Hill.

Off to the Asian races, starting in Japan at Suzuka. The big breaking news in Japan was McLaren signing a works engine deal with Mercedes which allowed Eddie Jordan to pick up the Peugoet contract for his team. The Japanese race ended up being aggregated after Morbidelli and Brundle crashed at the same spot leaving a marshal with a broken leg from flying debris. When the race restarted we had the fun of listening to Murray Walker try and make sense of the true race positions based on the aggregate times as Muddly struggled to work out whether the driver leading on the track was actually leading the race. In the end Hill was the winner with Schumacher second bringing the gap between the two drivers down to a single point as the teams moved off to Australia for the final race of the season.

Nigel Mansell parked his moustache on pole in Adelaide but went backwards at the start leaving Schumacher leading from Hill. Damon followed Michael around just a second behind and when Schumacher brushed a wall Damon saw his chance to take the lead. As Hill went for the inside at the next corner Schumacher turned in on him, launching his car in to the air and immediate retirement. Damon limped round to the pits and I, like millions of others, sat pensively hoping that car Zero would come back out on to the track to take the couple of points needed for the title. Unfortunately Schumacher had broken one of the wishbones on Hill's car and he retired. We were then treated to the sight of Michael Schumacher celebrating his first World Title watching one of the big screens at the side of the track. How excited he was, how despondent all British motor racing fans were. Schumie won the title in the most controversial of circumstances.



There is a school of thought that his brush with the wall had damaged his car and he knew the only way to win was to take Damon out, other suggest he was protecting his lead and had every right to be aggressive given what was at stake. I think the second opinion is complete tosh and as Schumacher proved in 1997 he wasn't averse to punting another car off for sake of winning a title.

Anyway, the season ended on a exciting note and Britain had a new hero in Damon Hill. Oh, by the way, Nigel Mansell won the race in Australia and tried to fit his rather bulky frame into a McLaren Mercedes in 1995. He didn't fit!

How to sum up 1994? Sad, exciting, strange, bizarre, annoying. Despite the loss of two drivers and the various other incidents which occurred during the season my abiding memory is not of the shattered Williams by the side of the track in Imola or the burning Benetton in Germany but of that bastard, Michael Schumacher, clenching his fists in excitement and joy as Damon climbed out of his broken Williams. Git! He was a bloody good driver though and Damon won the title in 1996 so I will forgive him.
 
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RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
Great Article FB and really good read.

Imola 94 was just the worst weekend for F1. I remember sitting and watching in horror as more and more disaster occured. JJ Lehto's wheel off the start flew into the crowd injuring fans as well but we didn't hear about that until later. Someone also lost a wheel in the pitlane (I want to say it was Albereto) which flew into some mechanics who luckerly came out with nothing more than bruising.

Horrible Horrible weekend.
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
Imola 94 was one of the most depressing race weekends... as soon as Senna was taken in an ambulance .. the race was held under a sombre mood. Berger briefly lead but retired apparently citing handling problems but I think he actually was very upset and did not want to carry on

You just lost any excitement for the race from then. I remember the ridiculous situation when I think it was Olivier Beretta or Erik Comas was allowed to leave the pitlane and farcically stopped at Tamburello because the medical team were still tending to Senna
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Aside from this the other controversies no doubt surround the various cheating tactics by Schumacher and Benetton

firstly launch control which apparently was so called programme 13 that Benetton originally denied the FIA access to . That alone should have them a ban .. it was like an athlete being told to take a drug test but not wanting to comply to hide something

secondly the removal of the filter to allow fuel to flow faster into the car apparently the team were given permission to do so. So did anyone not check with fuel manufacturers the risks in moving the filter. Benetton manage to dodge the penalties because another team was apparently given permission to do the same
 

GermanF1

Race Winner
Contributor
There is a bit more towards the Erik Comas incident. You can turn on the subtitles by pressing the button with the lines in the video

 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
A great summary of a pivotal season. Extraordinary to think of the number of serious accidents and injuries in the space of only a few months: Lehto, Brundle, Alesi, Barrichello, Ratzenberger, Lamy/Lehto, Senna, Alboreto, Lamy again, Wendlinger, Montermini. It marked the transition from the old Senna/Prost/Mansell axis to the period of Schumacher being the dominant force around which the rest revolved.

It was also a season in which Max Mosley took decisive, necessary steps rapidly to put safety back on the correct path, so credit to him for that.
 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
Putting aside the terrible tragedies of 1994 for a moment, I always find the Schumacher / Benetton cheat thing amusing. There were in reality no grounds for penalising either (apart from Silverstone - and that penalty was only applied to keep the Championship interesting - overtaking on the formation lap is not even against the rules now), as there was never any proof of anything untoward.

Getting a good / bad start even today is mostly luck and timing. Schumacher did indeed get a brilliant start in France, but he wasn't always good off the line in 94. Schumacher actually got one of his worst starts ever at Spa the year before while using (I believe) Benetton's new launch control system - which along with their traction control was introduced very late. No sensors to facilitate the use of traction control were ever found on either of the Benettons during 1994 and no recorded sound indicates the use of traction or launch control. Benetton did delay release of their software's source code, as did McLaren and I think Ferrari also. McLaren DID have an illegal system that worked, and were not punished. Benetton's system had option 13, a leftover from 1993 which had not been purged from the code, but hidden past some blank lines in order for it not be accessible .It also would have required a set sequence of button pushes and paddle movements - none of which were ever recorded on the onboard camera on either Benetton.

Larrousse saved Benetton's bacon a bit by informing the FIA that they had been told by Intertechnique that the filter that Benetton had removed was unnecessary and wasn't required - most teams filtered their fuel several times anyway. Did Benetton gain an advantage in fuel flow? I'm sure they did, but that option must have been available to all teams, as I'm sure if Larrousse knew about it, they all did. The Silverstone penalty was wrong, as the stewards didn't inform the team within the required time, and then tried to apply the wrong penalty - Benetton told Schumacher to stay out while they argued this with the stewards. He should not even have been black flagged because of this. Yes, black flags are meant to be non negotiable, but this one was incorrectly hung out.

Schumacher taking Hill out was controversial, but Schumacher was always going to turn right and hey, it'd been done before a couple of times and Damon winning the championship would have been a travesty (mainly due to the excessive penalty for Silverstone), although he did produce some fantastic drives, especially at Suzuka.

Jerez 1997 however is a completely different matter, blatant cheating, and I couldn't stand Villeneuve.....
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
There's always been the suspicion that, with the loss of Prost and Senna in swift succession, Bernie took certain steps to preserve the appeal of the sport, which included helping Williams bring Mansell back from the States for his cameos, and may have also included engineering an unlikely final race title decider.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
I think there's no doubt that Mansell's return, and signing for McLaren in 95, was in part due to the hand of Bernie.

I'd like to think the unlikely title decider was due to an outstanding drive by Hill in the wet in Japan.
 

Olivier

Race Winner
Putting aside the terrible tragedies of 1994 for a moment, I always find the Schumacher / Benetton cheat thing amusing. There were in reality no grounds for penalising either (apart from Silverstone - and that penalty was only applied to keep the Championship interesting - overtaking on the formation lap is not even against the rules now), as there was never any proof of anything untoward.

Getting a good / bad start even today is mostly luck and timing. Schumacher did indeed get a brilliant start in France, but he wasn't always good off the line in 94. Schumacher actually got one of his worst starts ever at Spa the year before while using (I believe) Benetton's new launch control system - which along with their traction control was introduced very late. No sensors to facilitate the use of traction control were ever found on either of the Benettons during 1994 and no recorded sound indicates the use of traction or launch control. Benetton did delay release of their software's source code, as did McLaren and I think Ferrari also. McLaren DID have an illegal system that worked, and were not punished. Benetton's system had option 13, a leftover from 1993 which had not been purged from the code, but hidden past some blank lines in order for it not be accessible .It also would have required a set sequence of button pushes and paddle movements - none of which were ever recorded on the onboard camera on either Benetton.

Larrousse saved Benetton's bacon a bit by informing the FIA that they had been told by Intertechnique that the filter that Benetton had removed was unnecessary and wasn't required - most teams filtered their fuel several times anyway. Did Benetton gain an advantage in fuel flow? I'm sure they did, but that option must have been available to all teams, as I'm sure if Larrousse knew about it, they all did. The Silverstone penalty was wrong, as the stewards didn't inform the team within the required time, and then tried to apply the wrong penalty - Benetton told Schumacher to stay out while they argued this with the stewards. He should not even have been black flagged because of this. Yes, black flags are meant to be non negotiable, but this one was incorrectly hung out.

Schumacher taking Hill out was controversial, but Schumacher was always going to turn right and hey, it'd been done before a couple of times and Damon winning the championship would have been a travesty (mainly due to the excessive penalty for Silverstone), although he did produce some fantastic drives, especially at Suzuka.

Jerez 1997 however is a completely different matter, blatant cheating, and I couldn't stand Villeneuve.....

I agree with you with mostly everything except the Intertechnique piece, it was subtle but clearly they were not authorizing Larrousse to remove the filter altogether, just provided an explanation what to do if it was removed. The letter said that a packing O-ring of specific thickness must be used.

If the letter would have had emoticons, when Intertechnique wrote it, I wonder if it had emoticons after explaning what to do if the filter was removed. I;m thinking it would have been this --> ;)

The other thing I wonder is if Larrousse themselves removed the filter like Benetton this. I don't recall reading about this at the time or after.

It's shady anyway, it is as if Larrousse were used as pawns in a very elaborate scam, but that's just me. After all, who was Benetton's team manager at the time?
 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
I agree with you with mostly everything except the Intertechnique piece, it was subtle but clearly they were not authorizing Larrousse to remove the filter altogether, just provided an explanation what to do if it was removed. The letter said that a packing O-ring of specific thickness must be used.

If the letter would have had emoticons, when Intertechnique wrote it, I wonder if it had emoticons after explaning what to do if the filter was removed. I;m thinking it would have been this --> ;)

The other thing I wonder is if Larrousse themselves removed the filter like Benetton this. I don't recall reading about this at the time or after.

It's shady anyway, it is as if Larrousse were used as pawns in a very elaborate scam, but that's just me. After all, who was Benetton's team manager at the time?

I have read that the filter in question was not originally included in the rigs and was added after winter testing, when some teams found contamination in their fuel? The intentions in the Intertechnique letter are not really known to us mere mortals, and it seems there was enough possible misinterpretation to give doubt over the reasons why Benetton removed the filter. Steve Matchett said at the time that Benetton repeatedly fed their fuel through an even finer filter, rendering the one in the rig redundant.

I also read that all the fuel rigs were checked and sealed by the FIA before every race - meaning anything against the rules should have been spotted, and Benetton made no attempt to refit the filter prior to the Intertechnique investigation several days after the fire. I'll be honest, I can't verify this though.
 

Olivier

Race Winner
Another thing that bothers me is the draconian penalties given to Schumacher for Silverstone and Spa and then the lack thereof for Germany. In a season marred by the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger, FIA's hand in the outcome of the Championship is evident.
 
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