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#573 1995 German Grand Prix

2023-01-16 23:00

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#1995, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Francesca Zamparini,

#573 1995 German Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher will be in Formula 1 with Ferrari next year. Gerhard Berger reveals that, with an interview that will be released on July 19, 1995,

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Michael Schumacher will be in Formula 1 with Ferrari next year. Gerhard Berger reveals that, in an interview that will be released on July 19th, 1995, in the Sport-Bild's journal. For what concerns the deal, Berger is precise:

 

"I heard about 15.000.000 dollars".

 

Prompt and comprehensive denial. Both from Maranello and Will Weber, manager of the World Champion.

 

"It’s all fake, Michael will start discussing his future only starting from August".

 

Sport-Bild, a tabloid magazine, might have exploited a statement by Berger, annoyed by the ongoing questions on the future of the Maranello's cars. Regarding his future, Berger said that Ferrari offered him a contract extension, but he makes it clear that he has not yet taken a decision. While waiting to understand how things will evolve, on Friday, July 21st, 1995, peace is back between Schumacher and Hill. One week before the German Grand Prix, Michael closes the matter:

 

"I hope that the Germans will behave with him just like the English did with me. Hill didn't push me out on purpose".

 

The Formula 1 World Championship is just at the turning point, but the drivers' market (and Schumacher's future) holds court. On Sunday, July 30th, 1995, at Hockenheim, the German Grand Prix will take place, the ninth race of a championship that, if the schedule is respected, will consist of 17 races this year. A year ago, in this time, on the fastest track of Formula 1 Ferrari returned to winning with Gerhard Berger, and it looks like also now (even if a lot has changed on the cars since then: engines, chassis and aerodynamics) the German track should be in favour of the 412-T2, which can fully take advantage of the 12 cylinders engine. To achieve the target, the team from Maranello is doing its best. On Monday, July 24th,1995, Jean Alesi tests the 3 race cars in Fiorano, while Nicola Larini is testing in Imola. Gerhard Berger will be present on Tuesday at the Italian circuit, while on Wednesday it will be the turn of the Italian driver to continue with the tests. The French is currently thrilled: he is third in the World Championship's standings, and he thinks he can pass Damon Hill after the German Grand Prix, to hunt Michael Schumacher. And Jean does not hide his hope of fighting for the championship. The French, who renews his faith for Ferrari in Sicily ("If they want me, I'll stay: my heart is deeply red, always"), knows very well that he is gambling his future during these months. Berger's statements, reported in German newspapers and immediately denied ("Schumacher is on his own, Alesi is not good at tuning cars"), find little space: but Jean knows that he needs to secure the position through numerous results. The situation is pretty clear: if it is true that Ferrari winks at Schumacher, it is also true that Maranello's cars will have to demonstrate to be competitive. After all, precisely at a press conference, the German driver talks about his future, admitting that there are four teams interested in him: Benetton, Williams, Ferrari, and McLaren.

 

"For me, it's important to have a car and a team able to win World Championships. With Benetton, I’m fine, and a lot of things should be perfect to make me change. Ferrari? Yes, I had some talks, but no result yet".

 

For what concerns the money, Michael (who announces his engagement with Corinna Betsch not before October, and who will donate the proceeds of photography’s rights - at least 580.000.000 lire - to charity) demands a lot, but Ferrari is willing to pay, although not beyond a certain limit. If the German leaves Benetton (50% of probability) and arrives in Maranello, Alesi needs to go. And he will have no problems: Briatore and Williams want him. Also, McLaren is ready to give him a chance.

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This is also due to Jean saying that he could never race alongside Michael, because the German claims to be the first driver and to have the entire team at his disposal. Only Berger, who used to race with Senna, can accept the role of second driver. And Gerhard seems to have already found a deal to stay. Second possibility: Maranello's team reconfirms both drivers. Nevertheless, there are variables to be considered, like the hiring figure of Alesi: it is already high, but Jeans think to be worth more. If a solution is not found, the separation will occur. And if the Schumacher's operation comes to nothing? Ferrari could think about Damon Hill. The English driver is underrated: until now, he took part in only 42 races (the German 60), but he won a lot, with really high percentages. He is fast in testing and, for what seems, he is also capable of offering important information to the technicians for the development of the car. This is not to be undervalued. Shumacher and Alesi are in the crosshairs, but there is also a third man, the English driver. In the meantime, after the fight at the British Grand Prix with Schumacher, is preparing to race at the enemy's home, in Hockenheim, at the German Grand Prix. And, according to Daily Mirror, Williams's driver is to be controlled on sight by policemen armed with machine guns. Kurzer, the police chief, explains:

 

"This is because it’s not the case to underestimate the situation: after assaults like the one to the tennis player Seles, unpleasant situations can also take place in Formula 1. Among the 140,000 present, one can be mad, wanting to avenge the action".

 

Frank Williams in person seems to have asked guarantees at the authorities, demanding protection for his driver. But Hill himself, in an interview to the German magazine Bunte, sends messages of peace to his rival:

 

"I’ll propose to Michael to do a lap of honour before the race, on my car: him and me together, to show that in the sport there’s fair-play. I have no interest in doing personal wars with Schumacher, tell him that I consider him the greatest of all".

 

Nevertheless, exceptional security measures will be adopted at the German Grand Prix, for the fear of unrest among British and German fans. Williams Renault's team will not wear a uniform, but rather civilian clothes, while the cars will have no identification logo. All because of the Silverstone's accident between the German Schumacher and the English Damon Hill, followed by an exchange of mutual accusations in the press. The protagonists of the fact, however, look busy to preach calm.

 

"Michael and I don’t look kindly at each other. I want to become World Champion, but he doesn't want to pass the title".

 

According to British sources, however, Hill should have offered to sit next to Schumacher in the parade prior to the race, with the aim of showing that they are sportsmen. The German, after rejecting the offer at first, seems to have accepted because this shows that Damon holds himself accountable for the accident in Silverstone. Meanwhile, on Saturday, July 29th, 1995, Gerhard Berger tests in Imola: 1'30"300 the best time, almost two seconds less than Tuesday, but also far from 1'27"224, record of the track. The driver from Austria also goes off the track at turn Rivazza, and the engine on his car is replaced due to electronic problems. In Maranello, Alesi feels betrayed, Berger badmouths Alesi, Schumacher admits there have been contacts with Ferrari. President Montezemolo, what is happening?

 

"Taking into account that Alesi and Berger have expiring contracts. And that already in Argentina, during the second Grand Prix of the season, there were talks about our drivers and the market related to them. Making it clear that here everyone is in a hurry, Ferrari has always made announces in Monza. The season is still long, Ferrari is second in the Constructors’ World Championship, Alesi is third in the drivers’ one, three points behind the second, and that on Sunday we are racing in Hockenheim...".

 

Having regard to all the foregoing considerations…

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"Now it’s enough. The drivers must behave as drivers. As first thing, maximum concentration. After that: it is their right to look around and verify if there are alternatives. As it is my right, and duty, to work, always and in any case, for the supreme good of Ferrari. Without destabilising the team. Checking the market. Keeping our men on point".

 

Alesi does not know anything about technique: words from Berger, for Bild newspaper.

 

"I advise Berger not to make denials of denials too much, and to be at the service, soul and body, of the team".

 

And to Alesi?

 

"Priceless Jean. I’ve always appreciated his commitment, his determination. But if today he’s a character at the centre of many offers, he must thank Ferrari for that. For sure, over the past few years, he hasn’t driven a bicycle. From Jean and Gerhard, I expect an exceptional contribution, a maniacal attention to detail. Luckily, the drivers, and Ferrari' interests, match".

 

Let's get to the centre of the discussion: Schumacher.

 

"To win in Formula 1, three are the requirements: a great organization, a great car, a great driver. Before binding to Alesi and Berger, I would have gladly taken Senna. But Ferrari wasn't winning, and so I preferred to back out. As president, I have the duty to take home the best: and currently, lap times at hand, the number one driver is Schumacher without hesitation, I have the duty to think about him".

 

Any contacts yet?

 

"Of course. But not only with Schumacher, if we have to talk about this. Also with others. Hill, for instance: a very serious driver, and he is definitely faster than what he appears".

 

So, Schumacher.

 

"The greater a driver is, the more he can win with different cars. Fangio had his five world titles with Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, and Mercedes. In ten years, Senna drove for four teams. Even Niki Lauda left Ferrari looking for new stimuli. I hope Schumacher follows the same rules".

 

There are talks about 40.000.000 dollars.

 

"I find the amount exaggerated, and Ferrari would never pay that, but this is not the point. The hiring of a driver must be considered from a wider perspective: investment. To gain half a second, billions are spent in scientific research, in sophisticated electronic devices. Having an expert driver means decreasing the time needed to make progress. Of course, I need to respect budget limits, but if Baggio's parameter, which is one eleventh of a football team, is worth 23 billion, one should not be shocked at the market value of Schumacher, which is 50% of a Formula 1 team. Not only that: he's young and experienced, he has already won a World Championship and continues to show something more than the others, as witnessed by Benetton's performance, with and without him".

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When will the decision arrive?

 

"Middle of August. It looks like a sufficient time to clarify the respective positions".

 

What is Ferrari missing?

 

"Compared to Benetton and Williams we are behind, but Ferrari is Ferrari, its added value exerts a unique fascination to the world. We lack that musical ear, that attention to detail that was Lauda, Senna, Prost' peculiarity. Drivers who, at the slightest rumbling of the engine, knew the reasons behind it and how to suggest remedies".

 

If Schumacher arrives, who will go away?

 

"Alesi has been very clear: he said that the German's presence is not compatible with him".

 

Jean is really shaken.

 

"Alesi knows how much I appreciate him, but as we had contacts with other drivers, he had them with Renault, too. For the love of God, he did the right thing. I said, and I repeat: he has to bring everything he has out of his body. The important thing is that he doesn’t cry betrayal and gets mushy".

 

And at what point is Formula 1?
 

"After the big crisis of last year and the puzzling start of the current season, in Brazil, it’s going through a positive moment. Three teams and three drivers fighting for the title, a pitched battle between engines that involves Mercedes, Renault, Peugeot, Ford, Ferrari, Yamaha and partially Honda. The problem is always the same: the evolution of electronics threatens to bypass controllers".

 

Have you ever thought, in perspective, about entrusting a car to Jacques Villeneuve?

 

"He doesn't have the style of his father, Formula Indy is not as difficult as Formula 1. I advise him to learn in a middle-field team, but I’d really like him to try a Ferrari at least in December".

 

On Thursday, July 27th, 1995, in Hockenheim, crowds are already at the circuit: thousands of people wander through the woods surrounding the autodrome, camping in tents and caravans. For the organisers of the German Grand Prix, it is a joy. There are talks of around 60.000.000 lire, between takings and induced income. Countless flags sprout from the branches. One is for Senna, the other banners bear the colours and names of the German driver and Ferrari. They intertwine as if to anticipate the times, as if the will of the people was already ready for the marriage between the World Champion and the Maranello team. Schumacher is silent. At a press conference in Kerpen, his hometown, in recent days he said:

 

"I’m talking with four teams: Benetton, Williams, McLaren and Ferrari".

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Half a bombshell. But this weekend, he will no longer talk about the drivers' market. He wants to concentrate on his enemy Damon Hill, even if - in order not to exasperate the tense mood of the fans - he will take a lap of honour before the race in an open car, together with the Englishman, being the first German to win the German Grand Prix. However, the claims of these days and the confirmation arrived from Luca Montezemolo, Ferrari president, excite the environment. The only one who knows nothing (or rather hides that he knows something) seems to be Flavio Briatore, manager of Benetton. He arrives in the late afternoon, mobile phone in hand. Genuine crocodile moccasins, shirt open over his hairy, tanned chest, a big naive smile on his lips.

 

"So I will ask Ferrari if I want to keep Schumacher; 40 billion per year. If this amount is true, he is worth a bit more than Baggio. I know my limits and Benetton's, and we must rely on our forces. If there’s someone who can go beyond... But I'm sure of something. Michael knows me well, while he doesn’t know the others. We offer him a competitive team, and he’ll think ten times before leaving".

 

How is your negotiation?

 

"We don’t have one open. It will eventually be discussed at the end of August. I think it’s destabilising for a team to do it before that. Now we think about winning races, the Drivers’, and Constructors' Championships. I'd rather have racers come after us than running after them. It may be that Schumacher has half a second a lap advantage over the others. But when the seconds are one and a half, the car also counts".

 

It should be noted, in this regard, that Patrese, Verstappen, Brundle and Herbert often suffered abysmal gaps from the German. 

"However, there is nothing wrong or abnormal about negotiating. We are calm. The market is open. We’ll see. The only certain thing is that Benetton is competitive, and whoever eventually takes Schumacher will be taking risks. If they don't win with him, they’ll have no more excuses".

 

Therefore, the Benetton manager appears in a game of poker with hole cards. It is true that the last word will be up to the person concerned. It will be Schumacher who will decide, unless he has already done so. Renault will give him golden bridges to stay (either at Benetton or Williams), McLaren-Mercedes does not seem to have any aces up their sleeves now, Ferrari can present a solid project with Barnard and the other technicians and a total commitment to the engines. It is also not excluded that the German has a special reason in mind for wanting a change, as his relations with the current team have often been stormy. Besides, drivers are fickle people. Meanwhile, Alain Prost announces that he has ended his relationship with Renault, with whom he had a three-year consultancy contract. A move without explanation that leaves everyone astonished. There are even those who say that the Frenchman wants to return to racing in the DTM with Mercedes. Betrayal is always on the doorstep in motor racing. A bit like Jean Alesi, who in Germany looks like one of those schoolchildren whose ears the teacher has just finished pulling.

 

"Bad day, I took a beating everywhere. President Montezemolo slapping me, then the nude photos of me in a tabloid magazine. Berger made fun of me, shouting at me that it was time for me to have sex, but I was just changing on the boat".

Alesi presented himself with a Sampdoria scarf that was given to him the day before his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix. 

 

"I forgot it in France and England. And you saw what happened. Now it’s my superstitious charm. I’ll never leave it again. Going back to the president's speech, what do you want me to say? It's impossible, he's the only person who has the right to speak, to decide and to do what he wants. I just try to do my best and I accept all the comments about me. For the moment, I’m still at Ferrari, they haven't dismissed me yet, even though everyone is waiting for Schumacher to arrive".

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Would the arrival of the German mean a safe departure for Alesi?

 

"No. I might not lose the job automatically. I’ve always said that I wouldn’t race in the same team as Michael as second driver. As an equal, I would". 

Truly a speculative bubble. But one that may be of little use; at this point Jean Alesi's position becomes truly precarious. Also because, not far away, Gerhard Berger flaunts absolute certainty about his future at Ferrari. On Friday, July 28th, 1995, with his usual red cap not covering his fire-burnt ears, Niki Lauda, in his role as Luca Montezemolo's advisor, between one flight and the other, is a constant presence in Formula 1. He observes, he talks, he sometimes turns into an ambassador. He knows many things. One cannot fail to ask him about the case of the moment, namely the Ferrari-Schumacher negotiations. Niki, partly for diplomatic reasons, says nothing at first. But as the minutes pass by, he spares no one and embarrassing truths come out. So, Lauda, did you get Schumacher? 

"Not yet, there's no signature yet. For two reasons. First: he hasn't yet decided whether he wants to change or not. Second: if he wants to leave Benetton, he still has to evaluate what they offer him. There are three other teams in question, we have sent him our proposal. I think it will be difficult for Michael. As happened to me in 1977 when I left Ferrari. You have to take into account the fact that he has to face a new situation, leave a team with which he shared an important relationship. And he also has to make long-term plans".

 

But what arguments can Ferrari now have for hiring the German? 

"It's not about money. The teams interested have the means to sign him. We will offer a certainly competitive car and a completely new engine, the 10-cylinder, for 1996. It’s been running on the dyno for some time and in September it will be mounted on a car for the first track tests. Ferrari’s been working hard on it for a year. It’s been hard, but I believe the results will be good. Renault adopted an engine with the same fractioning for seven seasons, so we were forced to think and build something that is really advanced, cutting edge in terms of technology and materials".

Someone said and wrote that you are also thinking of snatching Dudot, the father of the French 10-cylinder, from Renault. 

"I don't think so. The engine team is working well, it's a close-knit group. I don't think it's necessary to change. No, not Dudot".

So let's talk about fellowship. Ferrari has had problems during pit stops lately... 

'Formula 1 is a difficult sport, very delicate. Ferrari has a renewed team, very young. Inconvenience can occur in a season, but we’re trying to train, to improve. The team is doing well, it’s united and working".

 

Schumacher again. Why is it better to have him in the team? 

"Simple. Because he’s the best, the strongest, he makes the difference. Look at Benetton's second driver… Plus, he's a concrete, consistent champion who brings results home and knows how to develop the car. At the beginning of the year his single-seater was not competitive, in three races he managed to bring it back to the top". 

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Does this mean that Alesi and Berger are not up to it? 

"The truth is that they behaved like idiots this year. Ferrari started well at the beginning of the season. In Monte Carlo, Jean and Gerhard had something to say, and they didn't speak to each other for some time. Back in the day, with Regazzoni, we even argued on track. Then, we would insult each other and 10 minutes later we were working together, for the team. They went on for weeks (and Alesi replies that it's not true that he and Berger ignored each other after Monte-Carlo) and that's not good".

There have been talks of Schumacher replacing Alesi. Is Berger also in danger of losing his place? 

"Gerhard made a lot of mistakes this year, more than Alesi. The engine shutting down in Imola, the wrong start at Silverstone.... Ferrari at this point could change both drivers. When there’s war within the team, it goes wrong".

 

In Maranello, therefore, new air is blowing. Which could claim more than one victim. However, the air is also tense at Hockenheim. No parade will be held, the two drivers together on an open car before the race, to sweeten the public. Ecclestone, patron of Formula 1, prefers to avoid it. 

"Those two want to mess up my programme. The drivers must parade in order, with their teammates".

 
So, there will be no peace on track. Hill and Schumacher will be able to keep on looking at each other and perhaps continue to play bumper-to-bumper, as in Silverstone. After all, the Englishman made it clear in recent days: 

"If I had to repeat a similar overtaking attempt, I would do the same thing because a driver has the duty to take advantage of every opportunity".

 

A fine declaration of war by Damon, who also snatches pole position from his rival. A thrilling lap and, for the ninth time in his career, the fifth in the season and the third consecutive, he sets the fastest time: 1'44"385, at an average speed of 235.309 km/h, on what remained the fastest circuit in the world. But Schumacher, in front of his own fans in delirium (more than 200.000 people present over the three days), is not intimidated. He loses the first challenge by just 0.08 seconds, a trifle. And he promises a battle in the race, which will be long and difficult (in 1994, only six cars at full throttle). A close battle, with the usual decisive moment of pit stops. It is difficult to foresee anyone else taking part in this duel and deciding the future of the championship. Only Coulthard, with the other Williams, seems to have a means to match the top two. Far away is in fact Ferrari, who in 1994 won with Berger. In practice, the Austrian saves a very bad balance by finishing fourth (1.168 seconds behind Damon Hill), while Jean Alesi does not go beyond tenth place, because he cannot find an acceptable set-up for his car. And the engine, with little acceleration, does not help him. Reaching the points zone will already be a good result for both. Ferrari seems to have built an evil time machine: instead of projecting itself into a rosy future, it seems to have gone back a couple of years, to one of its worst moments. Not in terms of the 412T2's performance, but rather the atmosphere. It is symptomatic that when things do not go well there comes controversy, criticism, doubt, suspicion. Perhaps it was an effect of a certain disappointment: up to Magny-Cours, there had been continuous growth, since then the rivals have been making progress and Maranello suffered a negative backlash. Just to add to the confusion, on the Schumacher-Alesi-Berger business and Ferrari, Alain Prost also intervened. 

 

"Alesi won’t be able to stay if the German arrives. Michael wants the whole team at his back and call, Jean would be a second driver. Better to change air. If Williams wants him...".

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But Alain also teases Schumacher: 
 

"A great champion can’t give up an opportunity called Ferrari. He would become much more popular, because now he certainly hasn't reached the image levels that I, Senna, Piquet and Mansell had. But when he is in Maranello, he will have to remember certain things. I had tried to make Ferrari change its mentality, but they only changed the set-ups".

More on the Benetton driver: 

"Until now, he always raced alone with a whole team at his disposal. He never had a team-mate capable of challenging and stimulating him. So, it is yet to be seen if he will change car and team".

About Lauda's statements on Alesi and Berger, Prost says: 

"With Senna, there were very difficult moments. Off the track, we didn't talk to each other. But in the pits, we worked together: if what Niki said is true, he’s right".

The Austrian's statements are, however, calmly contested by those concerned. Gerhard Berger explains:

"Lauda is a great expert, he works on cars manufacturing, but honestly, he can’t see the commitment we put into practice and racing".

And Alesi adds: 

"He never speaks to me or even greets me. Thus, I don't understand how he can judge me".

 

Meanwhile, another problem arises at Ferrari. Agip, the traditional technical sponsor, may not renew its contract. The Italian oil company is willing to increase its commitment (in the face of an offer from Shell of $18.000.000 a year) but wants the team to join the battle for clearer petrol regulations. And this is an issue not to be underestimated, too. On Sunday, 30th, July 1995, at the start of the German Grand Prix, Damon Hill retains the lead ahead of Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Gerhard Berger, and Rubens Barrichello, while Mika Häkkinen overtakes Eddie Irvine for the sixth position. At the start of lap 2, Damon Hill makes a trivial mistake and loses control of his Williams under braking, thus running into the barriers at the first corner. He therefore leaves the lead to Michael Schumacher, first, ahead of David Coulthard and Gerhard Berger. The Austrian, however, receives a Stop & Go penalty for anticipating the start. When he re-enters the track, he is in P11. Rubens Barrichello is then third, ahead of Mika Häkkinen, Eddie Irvine, and Jean Alesi, now in the points zone. Alesi is the first to pit on lap 11, but once again there are problems, and the pit-stop takes 25 seconds. The Frenchman re-enters the track in P15, but he pits already on the following lap and retires due to engine problems. After 14 laps, Michael Schumacher leads the race by 5 seconds over David Coulthard, 9 over Barrichello and 11 over Hakkinen. Rubens Barrichello is the first to pit, but also for him the race lasts only a short time after the pit-stop since he must retire due to an engine failure on lap 20. When all the drivers return to the pits to refuel, Michael Schumacher is clearly in the lead ahead of David Coulthard, Mika Häkkinen, an incredible Gerhard Berger, Johnny Herbert, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The latter had to retire shortly after due to an engine failure on lap 32. On the next lap, Mika Häkkinen was also forced to retire while in third position, betrayed by the engine. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher widens his lead over David Coulthard to 25 seconds, knowing that he will have to stop one more time unlike the Scot. 

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The World Champion stops on lap 33 and exits the pit lane 7 seconds ahead of David Coulthard. At this point, nothing else changes and the German wins for the fifth time this season, success number 15 in his career. David Coulthard and Gerhard Berger finish the race in second and third place respectively, followed by Johnny Herbert, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Aguri Suzuki, who close out the top six, at the end of a race that has only nine cars reaching the finish line out of twenty-four. Michael Schumacher, the kaiser of the wheel, managed to turn a circuit into a kind of enormous bedlam. A huge crowd (128.000 paying spectators) used tons of firecrackers and fireworks to celebrate the first victory of a German driver in the German Grand Prix. No one - among the motor racing aces to whom this land gave birth - had ever won the home race since 1951. It is another record added to the roll of honour of the driver from Kerpen, who was practically born on a go-kart track. In a blaze of waving flags, the Benetton driver basically completed 300 kilometres in a continuous triumph. A success that Damon Hill, too generous, made easy for him. For the second consecutive time, the Englishman made a mistake. And this time, unlike two weeks earlier at Silverstone, he did not make a mistake in a crazy overtaking attempt. He went off the track at the start of the second lap, when he was already well ahead. It happened at the South Kurve, after the pits. A fast corner where you barely have to touch the brake. Apparently, Hill went long, the rear wheels locked for a moment and the Williams flew off at full speed. First a spin off-track that fortunately slowed him down, then a big hit against the protective tyres. The impact of Michael Schumacher's rival was immediately echoed by the thousands of bangs exploded in the stands. In a way, Schumacher had set a trap for Hill. The Englishman's exit from the track was in fact predictable, as the German driver himself explains:

 

"I know this circuit well. I knew that in the opening laps, the first corner would be tricky. Oil and dust settle in that area after the start. You have to brake a little earlier to avoid risks. When I saw Damon's Williams going off the road, I thought: there he is, he's gone, now everything becomes easy. However, though, it wasn’t because Coulthard put a lot of pressure on me. I had to make two stops, and anything could have happened. Instead, everything went well. That means the team adopted the right strategy because we won".

 

Schumacher does not hide his emotion: 

"It’s unbelievable. This success at the German Grand Prix in a sense gratifies me more than last year's world title. With these fans, I feel like I’m dreaming. On the last lap, as I entered the stadium, I was so moved that, as soon as I crossed the finish line, I made a mistake, got distracted, and let the engine turn off. It's hard to explain how I feel, but I think I’ve written a page of history in motor racing".

 

Admittedly, modesty is not one of Schumacher's main qualities. But Hill also has flaws. And when he talks about his accident, one gets the impression that he is looking for an excuse: 

"I'm upset about what happened. The car was going well. I went into the corner and the rear end suddenly locked up. I had shifted down the gears normally, everything was fine, and then I heard the wheels screech, and I ended up going off, without being able to explain why. I was pushing hard, trying to build up a good lead. I had passed that corner enough times in recent days to assess whether I was going over the limit or not. It seemed to me that the rear brakes were holding more than normal. At least that's my impression".

Certainly, the battle was lacking. As David Coulthard also admits: 

 

"I didn't score many points this year. And maybe now I care more about finishing races than taking risks. Probably, Schumacher was prepared to push harder than me".

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However, since Damon Hill's exit from the track, it was party time for the German, because no one had any doubts about his success any more. As it was. Michael drove perfectly, implementing together with his team a perfect pit-stop strategy (two pit stops for tyres and petrol, very quick) and apart from a brief interregnum - due to the pit stops - in favour of David Coulthard who was chasing him, he was always quietly first. Behind Schumacher, however, almost everything happened. And on the podium, with the World Championship leader and the Scotsman of Williams, eventually went Gerhard Berger. An unlooked-for third place for Ferrari, gained thanks to an excellent performance by the Austrian and a bit of misfortunes to others, such as the two McLarens and the two Jordans that were running on high times and were thus forced to retire. But the reliability of cars and engines is part of the game. And it also affected the team from Maranello: Alesi had to retire on lap 12, when he had moved up from P10 to P6, due to a problem with the power unit. 

"On the previous lap, I had heard a strange noise in the engine. So, I had tried to warn the pits by radio. Evidently, they hadn't heard me properly because I took the team by surprise. They looked at the car and changed the tyres. I restarted, but the rumbling at the back got even louder, and soon after I was forced to go back in. A weekend to forget, very unfortunate. And to say that the race had not got off to a bad start. The way things went, I could have gained a few points".

 

This completed the most disappointing week of the season for the Frenchman. Gerhard Berger did not have it easy either. If his 412T2 proved to be competitive, Gerhard ran into the axe of the electronic controls that no longer hid anything from the marshals. At the start, the Austrian shifted the car 7 centimetres in first gear. This was enough (but the law must be the same for everyone and in previous races had already penalised more than one competitor) for the #28 Ferrari to be given a 10-second penalty, with Stop & Go. On lap 5, when he was already third, Berger had to stop and restart from P14, detached from the best. This does not mean that Ferrari could have aimed higher, given the final gaps. But the podium would have been safe and Berger would not have been forced to fight like hell to recover. At least it was seen that the Austrian driver, when he wants to and the car allows it, is always able to be fast. Especially on the circuits he likes, like Hockenheim. Yet, at the end of the race, Berger appears to be divided by opposing feelings. On the one hand the satisfaction of third place, on the other the disappointment of having been penalised for an early start. 


"If they had asked me in the morning to sign for such a placing, I would have done so with my eyes closed. The car, despite a few small problems, was working well. And in the end, I even had fun. When they told me after the forced stop that I was in P14, I got so angry that I pushed like crazy. I think I did some good overtaking".

 

What happened at the start? 

"Before the red light came on, I engaged the gear and the car moved slightly. But I didn't cross the white line and above all I had no advantage. I think the electronic system that controls the early starts is too sensitive. Now I understand the mortification of my colleagues who had suffered the same penalty earlier. Apart from that, we just have to work to recover. We are still chasing the best".


There will be no lack of work for Berger and Alesi. Ferrari has summoned them both for Tuesday, August 1st, Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd, 1995. They are scheduled to head to Fiorano. Jean Todt declares:

"We have several things to try, on the engine, aerodynamics, and mechanics. Although, honestly, we can't yet know if the new things will allow us to make progress. In general, I would say that Berger's third place, after the problems and controversies of the past few days, is a small reward for the driver and the team. We also need to reflect, to calm down. Certain speeches don't help, it's better to keep quiet. It's not right, it's not pleasant. You can think some things if you want, but you don't say them".

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A reference to the criticism by Niki Lauda? Certainly, Todt did not like it. But now the championship continues. What kind of Ferrari should we expect in Budapest? 

 

"I hope that on the Hungarian track, our cars won’t repeat the disasters of past years. We continue to strive for this, to improve even if we are not winners".

 

In fact, some of the 412T2's performance was encouraging: Berger had the fastest time overall in the first sector of the track and the fastest speed across the finish line. It's not much, but when you are behind, all positive data is uplifting. Especially when obtained on a circuit that caused, as usual, a huge selection, with only eight cars at the finish line and nine classified. Apart from Hill going off the road (the only accident), eight engines, three gearboxes, one clutch and two semi-axles blew. Causing great disappointment for McLaren, and thus Mercedes - which supplies the engines to Ron Dennis' team - and Jordan-Peugeot. After last year's controversy over the divorce between the German company and the British team, they were all united by the same disaster at Hockenheim, hitting a negative 2-2. Which shows that even for the big constructors, Formula 1 is not such an easy field to conquer. And that Renault, which has been racing longer than the others, still has a considerable advantage. Now, in the challenge for the title, Schumacher is going downhill: 21 points of margin in the standings over Hill are a reserve that will allow the German not only to daydream, but also to risk a little more without having to recriminate in case of any blows. With the German Grand Prix over, the hunt for Michael Schumacher is on. The Benetton driver has become the most popular character in the country. And while Damon Hill is amid a crisis (two macroscopic errors in a row, even Bernie Ecclestone says he is an idiot), the German driver will celebrate his magic moment by marrying Corinna Betsch, his long-time partner: according to the newspaper Kölnische Rundschau, the civil ceremony will take place on Tuesday, August 1st, 1995, and the religious one on Saturday, August 5th, 1995. The wedding photos are already being sold exclusively, and the proceeds will be donated to charity. 

 

"Family is the most important thing, more than motor racing. And I want to have children". 

Meanwhile, people are asking questions. What are Schumacher's greatest talents as a driver? Why is he faster than others? Is he really the best? Can he reach and surpass the levels of Senna and Prost? On the fact that Michael is fastest, there is no doubt. But how much credit is to be given to his car and the team? Would he be that good even if he drove for another team? The best people to answer these questions are the technicians who work closely with him. Their explanations help us to understand and learn some of the secrets behind the champion of the moment. Vincent Gaillardot, the engineer from Renault, who handles the engine on the German's single-seater, and Pat Symonds, the Benetton technician who manages the technical evolution of the chassis, speak:

"With telemetry producing an impressive mass of data when the car is on track, the drivers can no longer hide anything. They’re open books. Qualities and faults are printed on the printouts. Schumacher is someone who listens and believes in what we tell him. If you give him concrete proof that one solution is better than another, he accepts it. Then he understands technique: aerodynamics, suspension, engines. His main secret is to know how to adapt to the characteristics of the car, and he doesn't pretend to change it at all costs".

 

Let's give some examples. 

"If you complain about excessive tyre skidding in a certain corner, let's go and check the behaviour of the power unit. You’ll see that the maximum torque comes in too brutally. He then changes the gear ratios and maybe tries a different line".

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So concludes:

 

"This will eliminate the problem. Then, he checks how fast he can go around that given point on the circuit. And he tweaks the settings until he can get the quickest passage. All this with computer-like meticulousness and precision. In addition, he knows how to use the brakes and the accelerator in an exceptional way, never going over the limits while trying to be very close to them".

 

Symonds adds:

 

"As far as the car is concerned, one lap is enough for him to understand. He comes back to the pits and explains his ideas. We have prepared a scale from 1 to 5 on the value of the interventions to be made. If Michael says the understeer is level 3, we already know what to do. What's impressive is that going back to the same track months later, he can memorise the data and it's always accurate. He never changes a previous assessment. And there's one incredible thing, which I don't think any other driver manages: while he's in the car, even when he's fully committed, he's constantly talking on the radio in a calm, cool voice, as if he was sitting at home, reporting a series of data. In the dashboard display, he also wanted one speed indication, whereas many drivers make do with the rev counter. Michael can look at the indicator while driving and knows whether he is faster or slower with each pass. A robot, in that sense. So, he knows exactly where he can overtake, where he gains and where he loses. When he does practice, he always pushes, to check how long it takes him to get in and out of the pits. And he needs this for refuelling in the race; I pity his rivals because they are faced with the phenomenon of the twentieth century".

 

Is there anything more to add about Benetton's German driver? Probably, but looking elsewhere, after the exit of Gianni Morbidelli, replaced at Footwork by Massimiliano Papis from Como (who brings fresh money to the British team in crisis), it is also Pierluigi Martini's turn to stay put. The driver from Romagna (34 years old, 119 races to his credit, second only to Berger as seniority in F1) will have to make way for Portuguese Pedro Lamy, already starting at the next Hungarian Grand Prix. Lamy, 23, had a bad accident with Lotus at Silverstone in 1994, fracturing both legs. Now healed, but probably out of training, he brings with him a sponsorship valued at around 2.000.000 lire. And, Giancarlo Minardi, albeit reluctantly, is forced to accept the offer. For small teams, economic problems are always just around the corner. Now, there are four Italian drivers in the World Championship: besides Papis, there are Montermini and Lavaggi, as well as Badoer. Poor Italian drivers: these are hard times, and you have to grit your teeth.


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