Sunday, March 26, 1995, restarts the Formula 1 World Championship, the 46th in the history of the sport. From Thursday, March 24, 1994, the challenge is on at the Interlagos track in São Paulo, on the occasion of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna has left a void in the hearts of all fans. But, as always, it goes on. And, again, we wonder if Ferrari will finally win and be able to fight for the title. A question which is difficult to answer now. The drivers, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, say that the 412 T2 is better than the previous car with which the Austrian won the 1994 German Grand Prix. A single-seater that offered alternate recurring results. Unfortunately, winter tests have not provided enough indications to understand if there will be a comeback for the team from Maranello. Some unforeseen events (two accidents of the Austrian, with runway exits that forced the technicians to partially review the chassis and suspension) and bad weather reduced the scheduled tests. This is why Ferrari, once again, takes off without certainty, in terms of both level of competitiveness achieved and reliability. The championship is full of interest. The new technical rules, the revised lineups of many teams, the different combinations between cars and engines have given a boost to the environment. The dominant of the season remains that of the competition between Williams and Benetton, both supplied with the same engine, the 10-cylinder Renault. But what are the prospects and the news of the season? The sports regulations remain unchanged, with pit stops for refueling. Instead, the technical counterpart is completely revolutionized. The imposition of a 5 cm detachment from the ground to raise the cars and reduce the ground effect forced designers to completely redo chassis and aerodynamics. For the moment, performance seems to have decreased, but many drivers have already sounded an alarm: this change is dangerous when taking curbs. There is a risk of serious breakage of the chassis which, among other things, is not protected at the bottom and therefore does not guarantee the necessary safety to the driver. A matter to be resolved quickly. Doubts and suspicions also concern the electronics, back to having more space, with the adoption of the accelerator controlled by a computer. There is a possibility that some teams may use prohibited systems for traction control and programmed gearboxes. Engines.
The displacement goes from 3500 cc to 3000 cc, with an assumed reduction of power between 100 and 60 HP depending on the characteristics of the various engines. However, the technicians have already studied several remedies to try to recover power. The most controversial is the one concerning the air intakes, the air boxes placed in the upper part of the bodies. An attempt has been made to create an artificial turbo effect that increases the air pressure on the power supply, at the limit of the regulation. The inspectors of the Federation are already busy detecting the presence of irregular systems. The first crisis of the year hit McLaren-Mercedes. Nigel Mansell, hired by billions to fight Benetton and Williams, will not take part in the first two races. The cockpit of the car is too narrow for the British driver, who will be momentarily replaced by Mark Blundell. It’s an unfortunate start for Ron Dennis' team. In 1995, there will be only four Italian drivers in contention: Pierluigi Martini and Luca Badoer with Minardi, Gianni Morbidelli remained at Footwork and Andrea Montermini who signed in extremis with Pacific. In addition, there is Gabriele Tarquini in a not well specified role at Tyrrell, between driver and test driver. The first two should do well because the team from Faenza seems to have worked well, presenting a very interesting car, even if you compete in the midfield and certainly not at the top. The new Forti team can count on two Brazilians, Pedro Paulo Diniz and Roberto Moreno. Completely unknown. Making a first appearance. Teams that seem destined to increase the show are viewed with great interest. Important roles for Jordan-Peugeot and for Ligier, Benetton’s twin but equipped with Mugen-Honda engines. Curiosity also surrounds Tyrrell-Yamaha and Sauber, coupled with Ford. The number of teams, however, has decreased and the economic situation of many teams is not good. In short, together with a predictable duel between Williams and Benetton for the title and hopes for Ferrari, Formula 1 returns on track with the usual load of possible reasons for conflict and controversy. But maybe all this is now an integral part of the show. Meanwhile, teams and drivers, in small groups, reach Brazil where, from Friday afternoon, tests will start at the Interlagos circuit and, after the first chronometer feedback, you will know which team worked better during the winter to prepare cars that, with this year’s new regulations, will be able to change the framework of F1 values.
Speaking of rules, the issue of super licensing upsets the hours ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix. To obtain it, the Federation requires drivers to comply with a series of constraints and duties. Many drivers disagree but Gerhard Berger, spokesperson for the category from Vienna, confirms that he will meet requirements to regularly start, adding that his colleagues will do the same:
"I speak for them and start from the principle that everyone will meet requirements. The safety issue was not the main cause of the rift. A lot has been done in this area, we can’t complain".
For the Austrian driver, the controversy above all concerns the exploitation of advertising. The FIA, in practice, would like to decide without discussing it with the drivers.
"We have agreed that no advertising can be accepted by the FIA without the prior agreement of the driver concerned".
It is therefore with a great mixture of feelings and conflicting circumstances that the Formula 1 World Championship is about to start. Friday, March 24, 1995, the cars will be back on track at the circuit of Interlagos for the first round of tests of the Brazilian Grand Prix: on the one hand, the doubts and uncertainties - along with the first controversies - for the racing season that is about to begin and, on the other hand, the poignant memory of Ayrton Senna, the champion who tragically died last year in the Imola accident. Everyone, in São Paulo, remembers Ayrton: from the first road you see when leaving the airport, a ring road that took the name of the pilot, to the events that take place to commemorate his thirty-fifth birthday. His latest girlfriend, Adriane Galisteu talks about him, in the newspapers you also hear Marcella Praddo, the former model who posed naked for Playboy, saying he had a daughter (Victoria, of a year and a half) from him. Praddo also claims that Senna has never denied this paternity and that not even the family has sued her. But she has no money to survive and has joined the Evangelical Church to get some help. Alain Prost also visits Ayrton Senna’s family. A continuous pilgrimage of people in tears. The organizers are more ruthless, setting very high prices to attend the tests and the race. A day of timed tests costs about 80,000 lire, the pass for the weekend over 600.000 lire, while there are VIPs who will spend almost 3.500.000 lire (including helicopter and lunches cooked by the best chefs) for the Grand Prix. These prices would be justified by the costs of the trip. Among other things, twenty very sophisticated electronic systems should be placed along the track, able to detect live any infringement committed by the cars, including the use of non-regular fuels or computers that control gearboxes and clutches. Some kind of satellite-free star war on asphalt. Some say that the track is still dangerous, like the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, born a few meters away from Interlagos.
"Three points are at risk, due to the high kerbs that can make the cars take off, at the Berger curve, at the Larangina and in the pit straight".
However, Rubens Barrichello, together with compatriot Pedro Paulo Diniz, was one of the first to sign with the FIA to get the super lynch. And on Wednesday, March 22, 1995, also Gerhard Berger announces the accession, but during the night of the same day a meeting of the drivers is still scheduled, and spring surprises could emerge. What about public safety? A committee called Contru is operating, and the tribunes are examining it: it is suspected that some are not regulations. Just to be clear, the Contruis is the organism that, in this very same area, has recently closed the Morumbi, famous football stadium, due to it being undermined by water infiltration. So, there is no shortage of problems and controversies. But it is normal, just as it is chronic, that throughout so many years Brazil always presents itself with a different economic context. Now everything is expensive, the new currency, the Real, is worth 15% more than the dollar, but it is clearly disproportionate, and it is already known that, in the upcoming months, there will be significant changes. Nothing new, however, for what concerns Ferrari. It starts in the dark.
With a great confidence, but without certainties. As confirmed by Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, the protagonists of a crowded press conference in the city centre.
"We haven’t done enough testing with the other teams to have accurate results. During the last days of practice in Estoril, when we weren’t there, Williams and Benetton were very strong. I’m pretty optimistic. Our car, the 412-T2, seemed balanced and easy to drive. The engine is fine too. In short, we can start well, even if we will have to wait for Imola, in April, to have the first confirmations and to make use of everything we have available. Therefore, in the first race, anything can happen, even winning, because all cars are completely new and to discover".
Jean Alesi, as usual, is more talkative, less cautious.
"I prepared well physically, I am in perfect shape and in a great mood. In 1990, I arrived at the first race in Phoenix with Tyrrell, and I had not even tried the tires. I set the fourth time in qualifying and in the race, I had a great duel with Senna. It’s true, we spent a very little amount of time on track and the times we did, it was always on wet asphalt. But a driver must have a good feeling with his car. I’m convinced that it will go well, that it will give us more satisfaction than we expect".
On Thursday, March 23, 1995, Michael Schumacher arrives in Interlagos by helicopter, as befits a World Champion. Tan face, white shorts, tennis shoes. As preparation for the first race, he spent, together with his girlfriend Corinne Bentsch, a week at the Club Mediterranée in Mangaratiba, along the coast near Rio de Janeiro, a holiday village close to Angra dos Reis, the favourite refuge of the late Ayrton Senna.
"I’ve completed my physical training, so I can’t say I’ve rested. The start of a new championship puts me under strain. It’s inevitable".
After the title won in 1994 at the last race, what is the prediction for the season that kicks off today, after the first tests for the Brazilian Grand Prix?
"It’s obvious that ambitions are through the roof. The team wants to win the Drivers' World Championship again and win it all with Constructors’, as well. But it will be difficult because we can’t count on the surprise factor".
Do you consider yourselves favourites?
"As far as I’m concerned, I think I play the role of leader-outsider. The team to beat is Williams with Hill and Coulthard".
For what reason?
"It’s simple. We have an engine, supplied by Renault, to discover. Our technicians were forced to change the whole car, not only because of the renewed regulations. Chassis, aerodynamics, the very same concept of the single-seater, every detail is different. And in the first races we could take the toll. Williams just had to make a few adjustments, and it’s up ahead. But I hope to make a difference with the driving".
Damon Hill said he felt more mature and confident. Will he be the most dangerous opponent?
"Of course. Damon had some uncertainties last year. Mansell’s looming presence concerned him. And he himself was not used to fighting at the top".
Then, there is also a certain Coulthard, which many consider the most promising element of the new generation of drivers...
"I’m convinced that David will be a tough rival, especially in the race. Perhaps he will still have some difficulty in making the most out of the potential of his car in qualifying, where a good experience is needed. But in the races, he can have his say and maybe even be faster than his teammate".
Will it be a duel limited to Benetton and Williams?
"Theoretically yes. Winter trials have also proved it. But right behind I would put Jordan, Sauber and Ligier. These are the three teams from which we can expect surprises, especially at the beginning of the season".
What about Ferrari?
"They have not done enough tests, it’s difficult to hazard a judgment. Obviously, they must be taken into account, but at the moment it’s a real unknown".
Similarly, McLaren does not seem to be at its best for the debut and has to do without Mansell because the car is too narrow.
"I heard there are problems. Normally, McLaren has always been the fastest team to adapt to the new regulations and often started with some advantage. Now the situation seems to be different, but I’m convinced that sooner or later they will do very well. It will be a fairly balanced championship, so the final positions will also count. It’s clear, however, that I like to win".
There are new technical rules for cars, with the aim of achieving maximum safety. Something has been done and is also being done for the circuits. Are you drivers calmer now?
"It’s true, there has been some progress. But it’s necessary not to rest on laurels. Our association must be vigilant and continue to fight to have a stronger voice in the decisions that are taken. Now the cars are slower, but it’s almost certain that, with the devices operated by the technicians, you will soon have the chance to go as fast as before".
Usually, when a new season begins, we always talk about hunting the reigning champion. Will this be different this year?
“I hope to stay ahead to everyone, but it won’t be easy".
Flavio Briatore, Benetton’s manager, is also cautious:
"We have some problems with the gearbox, electronics and aerodynamics, so for the first two races we will have to defend ourselves. But our technicians are working to find the right solutions. We’re not finished, we now try to take the measures of our opponents above all. Our goal, however, is to win the two world titles".
Meanwhile, in Interlagos, the weather is unpredictable. It is hot, but it rains almost every day. And for a Formula 1 Grand Prix this is a threat. But everything is ready: the organizers have fixed the circuit, repainting and remaking some corners to make them less dangerous. However, according to the drivers, the asphalt is not perfect in at least three points. For the first race of the season, there is the usual atmosphere of expectation and curiosity, with designers and technicians going around the pits carefully checking the latest news adopted by rivals. There are plenty of camera flashes, as if the circus was the scene of a complex spy service in which everyone takes part. According to the latest data, fewer tickets were sold last year (when Ayrton Senna took pole position and Michael Schumacher won the race), but television set up an extraordinary team to draw more audience, with 40 cameras along the circuit. Security should be fine, even if the police has alerted 7.000 officers. Particular attention is paid to Frank Williams, owner of the team, on whose car Ayrton Senna had the fatal accident at Imola. To remember the missed champion, numerous initiatives are planned. During Sunday’s formation lap, all drivers should wave a Brazilian flag, while before the start a minute of silence will be observed. Obviously, there will be an exhibition of a samba group who won the competition combined with the Paulista carnival, with the participation of Tas (Torrida Ayrton Senna) which boasts 300 followers. The attention of many Brazilian fans is focused on Rubens Barrichello, destined to inherit the cheer that was reserved for the three-time World Champion. On Friday, March 24, 1995, the F1 World Championship begins with a bang. An incident that, unfortunately, recalls the tragic events of last year. The protagonist is the reigning World Champion, Michael Schumacher. Over the course of his third lap, in the first qualifying round, the German lost control of his Benetton-Renault. The car begins to spin in one of the corners on the opposite side to the right side of the boxes, then climbs on a curb, rises in the air and slams against the protections with the right side. Unharmed the driver, despite the great fear, many damages to the car.
"I was pushing hard when I felt the steering lightened, and I realized I couldn’t drive the car any more. I just tried to break, so I could throw the car sideways to avoid a frontal impact. Luckily, I managed to do this, and I hit the guards, a guardrail with some piles of old tires in front. The impact was very strong on the right, but I noticed that the construction of the chassis, with the new safety standards imposed by the FIA, worked very well. A kind of crash test live, just with no dummies. I was driving at 220 km/h but the crash, detected by telemetry, occurred at 180 km/h. It went well".
But what was the cause of the accident? After a careful examination, the Benetton technicians discover that the joint that connects the steering column to the steering box had failed. A piece called uniball, a joint. The real consequence was that the steering wheel began to turn as if in a vacuum, as it seemingly happened in Imola to the poor Ayrton Senna. Fortunately, circumstances in Brazil were different and everything was resolved with a few moments of terror. Benetton, out of obvious prudence, immediately stops the other driver, Johnny Herbert, preventing him from going on track. The designers are working to find a solution. A thrilling start, then, which unfortunately confirms that danger is always around the corner in this sport. Nothing surprising regarding the times set: as it was abundantly predictable, the Williams, which dominated the winter tests, turns out to be the fastest. Damon Hill set the fastest time in 1'20"081, at an average of 194.428 km/h. For the record, last year Ayrton Senna, always with Williams, had got the pole turning in 1'15"962, at an average of 204.971 km/h. However, we will have to wait for the second timed round to see the real difference due to the new regulations to increase safety and reduce speed. Ferrari’s debut was good, second with Gerhard Berger, 0.934 seconds behind Williams, while Jean Alesi is fourth, preceded also by David Coulthard. These are provisional results, susceptible to change. The Austrian says:
"I’m quite satisfied. The 412 T2 has proven to be easy to drive and fine-tune. But at the same time, the expected gap with Williams has been confirmed. We’ve tested too little during the last few weeks. To recover, if we succeed, we will have to wait for the third race, at Imola, when we will have all the parts of the car we have reviewed and redesigned, together with a more powerful version of the engine. Meanwhile, we hope to be reliable in the race to start collecting some important points".
Jean Alesi, whose girlfriend Kumiko Gotoh is also optimistic, respecting an ancient tradition (and to avoid the gossip of press and television), in Japan officially reveals the relationship with the Ferrari driver. Jean is behind the team-mate:
"But I had never tried the car on dry asphalt, and I couldn’t expect more. Moreover, in the first timed attempt the pressure of the tires was low, and I have slightly ruined the bottom of the car. We worked on it for the necessary fixing, but then I found traffic. But I’m glad, we started well, and we can improve".
On Saturday, March 25, 1995, Formula 1 engines are back to rumble. We are back to the way it was in 1994, with Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher against each other. In the front row. The Englishman is the favourite, his Williams seems to be better, and Damon easily keeps pole position with Friday’s weather. But beware of the talent and grit of Michael Schumacher, who does not seem to be at all shaken after the bad accident on Friday. On the contrary, over the course of the morning, with wet asphalt, the German driver goes off track again and makes two hundred meters in the meadow, like a rally racer, just to later regain control of the car. Benetton's technicians work all night to eliminate the issue that created many problems the previous day. The steering column joint is reinforced. In addition, it is now modified, with a system that allows the driver to keep the car in the right direction, in case of another unlikely break. To be verified is also the supporting role of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert, both behind their respective teammates. And that of Ferrari, which obtains the fifth and sixth place with Gerhard Berger Jean Alesi, respectively. Given the circumstances, we would have expected something more in terms of performance. But the chronometric gaps are quite small, and it must be said that, for the first time, the Austrian looks really confident.
"This is a competitive Ferrari, because it has no basic problems. It’s well-balanced, doesn’t consume the tires disproportionately, it’s easy to drive and fine-tune. I’m optimistic because we can have a good race, and I’m sure that we will still improve over the course of the next races. In qualifying, I broke an engine, but I was really pushing hard, and this can happen. Otherwise, I could have made three tenths less on the lap. But over the weekend we didn’t have the slightest electronic problem with the gearbox, the suspension and aerodynamics. It’s already a great starting point".
Jean Alesi is more discrete, still complaining about not perfectly understanding the car quite yet. But it is clear that, during the race, the Frenchman will make a high-level performance and above all he will try to conquer positions at the start with his reaction time. But beware: for the first time on the grid, electronic sensors placed under each car will be employed. If someone anticipates the start, even just for a thousandth, he will be automatically reported to the race director. The penalty for infringement is a Stop & Go in the pits. As usual, there will be other matters in play: from stops for refuelling and tyre consumption to race strategies. A set of circumstances that everyone hopes to be spectacular, able to make the race uncertain until the end. To give more suspense, not even the threat of harsh weather is lacking. With the rain, anything could happen.
On Sunday, March 26, 1995, dry and sunny asphalt are the conditions for the race, with over 40.000 spectators following the Brazilian Grand Prix. A few minutes before the start, an FIA press release was delivered to all media and team personnel, informing that the Elf petrol used by the cars of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard is illegal, as it does not match the samples provided by the fuel company before the start of the season. Both teams are fined $30.000 and are under appeal, as the penalty may be disqualification from the event. Neither Michael Schumacher nor David Coulthard is informed of the situation, as the teams do not want to worry their drivers before the start. On the contrary, the cars of Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert are not under investigation because they use a fuel conforming to that deposited. A sample of the Agip petrol used by Ferrari, as well as the Mobil one, supplied to McLaren, are tested before the race and both are judged regular. Of the twenty-six cars qualified for the event, only twenty-five start the race: this is because Pierluigi Martini is forced to retire during the formation lap due to gearbox problems. At the start, Damon Hill, who had taken pole position, was overtaken by Michael Schumacher at the first corner. At the same time, Olivier Panis, who started tenth, left the track at the first corner, after a contact with Ukyo Katayama: the French driver hit a wall and was forced to retire. Johnny Herbert lost three places and, at the end of the first lap, is behind Mika Häkkinen and the two Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi. On the other hand, Miark Blundell, author of a bad start, is back to P14 after changing gears from the first to the third. At the end of the first lap the situation sees in the lead Michael Schumacher, ahead of Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Mika Häkkinen, Gerhard Berger, Jean Alesi, Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine, Ukyo Katayama and Mika Salo, with the two Tyrrell drivers exchanging positions during the following lap. During the third lap, Damon Hill tries to overtake Michael Schumacher at Turn 5, but the German defends the position. David Coulthard, who approaches Damon Hill, unsuccessfully tries to pass him at turn 6. From now on, the first two manage to leave David Coulthard behind, who understands that he cannot follow the two leaders and simply continues to maintain his race pace, which is better than the cars that follow. On lap 5, Johnny Herbert significantly drops in the standings to P10, losing positions to Eddie Irvine, Mika Salo and Ukyo Katayama. During lap 10, Michael Schumacher began to lap, overtaking Pedro Paulo Diniz.
For the leading drivers, lapping is a constant presence in this race. During the same lap, Heinz-Harald Frentzen retired while in P12 due to electrical problems. During lap 12, also Domenico Schiattarella is forced to abandon the race due to steering problems. On lap 15, Eddie Irvine was the first driver to pit, much earlier than expected, and retired due to friction problems. On the same lap, Ukyo Katayama left the track and switched off the car’s engine, causing him to retire from the race. The two retirements allowed Johnny Herbert to gain two positions. Jean Alesi is the first of the leading drivers to stop, refuelling on lap 17 and returning on track in P11. Rubens Barrichello, however, retired a lap later, slowly returning to the pits due to gearbox problems. On lap 18, Jos Verstappen also retired due to problems with the accelerator. Benetton and Williams used different race strategies, with the Anglo-Italian team planning three stops and the British team planning two. Michael Schumacher stopped on lap 18, but he was slowed down by Barrichello’s Jordan-Peuveot. The German came out of the pits after Gerhard Berger but managed to pass the Austrian immediately after. Damon Hill stopped on lap 21, pulling out of the front of Michael Schumacher. David Coulthard then took the lead of the Grand Prix until his pit stop, after which he returned to the track in fifth place. Mika Häkkinen and Gerhard Berger are the last drivers in the first positions to pit, but McLaren mechanics lose about ten seconds during refuelling, due to problems with the new equipment, as was also the case of other teams. Berger, who is among the last, managed to go back on track in third place, with Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Jean Alesi and Mika Salo making up the top six. Salo’s stop is impeccable and allows the Tyrrell driver to gain time compared to the drivers who preceded him in the pits. In this phase of the race, Bertrand Gachot also retired - lap 23 - due to a fault that blocked the change of his Pacific in fifth gear. Gerhard Berger makes his pit stop on lap 27, but encounters communication problems during the stop, as the lollipop mechanic (which serves to indicate to the driver when to start) lifts him in advance, when one of the wheels is not yet well secured. The accident cost the Austrian driver thirteen seconds of delay, and the Ferrari car is back on track in seventh place. Jean Alesi also ended up in the back and was overtaken by Mika Salo and Mika Häkkinen after the first lap, as the Finns stopped after the French driver, who, in turn, was slowed down by Andrea Montermini.
Meanwhile, in the leading positions, Damon Hill manages to bring his lead to over three seconds until, on lap 31, he goes off track and is forced to retire, probably due to a gearbox problem. In the same point, Johnny Herbert also withdrew due to a collision with Aguri Suzuki, who, in turn, had to stop to replace the damaged nose of his car. Michael Schumacher moved to first place thanks to Damon Hill’s retirement, 11.5 seconds ahead of David Coulthard. Mika Salo takes third position with Tyrrell, 39.4 seconds behind the Scottish driver. Mika Häkkinen and the two Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi complete the top six. Michael Schumacher made his second pit stop on lap 37, getting back on track behind David Coulthard. Mika Salo and Mika Häkkinen, both performing far above expectations, fought for the third position until lap 39, when Salo, cramped and driving with one hand, suffered a spin in the last corner. Immediately after, the Finnish driver changes the tyres, going down to eighth position. Mika Häkkinen, now in third place, stopped in the pits during lap 43 and returned to the track behind the two Ferraris, with Gerhard Berger in front of Jean Alesi, when the latter entered the pits during the following lap, thus returning to the track in seventh position. David Coulthard, in the lead, refuelled on lap 47, but his lead is too limited to keep it. Also, because shortly after, Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time on the lap with 1'30"921, increasing his advantage in such a way that he can keep the head of the race even after the stop, made on lap 52. After that, Michael Schumacher increased the margin up to 11 seconds and won the Brazilian Grand Prix, followed by David Coulthard, second with his Williams-Renault. Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari stopped at the pits during lap 49, without losing positions, and so managed to take third place, followed by Mika Häkkinen, despite the loss of the rear wing caused by an impact with a bird. Jean Alesi finished fifth, although he lapped during the final laps, as did his team-mate and the Finnish McLaren-Mercedes driver. In the final stages, Gianni Morbidelli and Mark Blundell overtook Mika Salo, but the Footwork driver was forced to retire during lap 62 due to the blocked fuel supply. Mark Blundell, who had previously changed the steering wheel and no longer had the third gear, took the last place in the points, ahead of Mika Salo, Aguri Suzuki, Andrea Montermini, who ended the race despite the breakdown of the bottom of his car, taking the Pacific for the first time to the finish line, and Pedro Paulo Diniz.
This race can be summarized as survival: only ten of the twenty-five starters reached the end. Of those who retired at the end, Karl Wendlinger suffers from a broken battery cable on lap 41, Roberto Moreno and Luca Badoer retire on lap 47 due to a spin and gearbox problem, while Taki Inoue’s car catches fire on lap 48. However, the Japanese driver was subject to a black flag for being pushed back on track by the race commissioners, following a spin. Shortly after his retirement, Damon Hill was interviewed by the BBC and said that the reason of his retirement was related to problems with the gearbox; his Williams would have remained without the second gear even before forcing him to retire. The English driver is very disappointed, as he thought he could get a good result and beat Michael Schumacher. Subsequent analysis of the team will also highlight a broken left rear suspension. During the prize-giving ceremony on the podium, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Gerhard Berger do not uncork the champagne bottles as a sign of respect towards Ayrton Senna. The German driver is happy with the victory, yet he admits that Damon Hill was faster. The German driver also confirms that his good start was due to luck, as he did not do any start practice because of the little time available. David Coulthard, on the other hand, admits that he was not in the best physical condition, as he suffered from tonsillitis and was not able to fight Michael Schumacher, thus limiting himself to race management. Given that he only did one lap, Berger was disappointed, never able to seriously compete against Benetton, which proved to be faster in all sectors of the track. At the end of the race, however, the cars of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard are disqualified because they seem to have used a petrol (supplied by Elf) not compliant with the regulations, therefore Gerhard Berger and Ferrari are declared winners of the Brazilian Grand Prix (ps: the positions will then be reinstated, therefore Michael Schumacher will be declared winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, although the teams will not be awarded points related to the Constructors’ Championship). The Formula 1 World Championship started in the worst way possible. With a race decided a posteriori, by the regulations. Michael Schumacher’s first victory on track, ahead of David Coulthard and Gerhard Berger.
Then, after four hours of waiting and discussions, the exclusion from the standings of Benetton and Williams drivers and the success assigned to the Austrian of Ferrari. A story about petrol rises, this time in the limelight, in a bad way. According to the prosecution, the two teams at fault used non-homologated fuel. A disconcerting situation after all the controversy, doubts, accusations that had troubled the previous championship. We wanted a clearer and cleaner Formula 1 and, instead, we find ourselves torn between tensions and suspicions. The first bad news was communicated a few minutes before the start of the race. With two separate announcements, the three delegates of the Brazilian Grand Prix management, Barbosa, Iwasaki, and Montagner, reported, based on a report from the FIA’s technical delegate, that Benetton and Williams would receive a fine of $30.000 and a warning not to incur the same infringement in the future. And that Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard would race sub judice. What had happened? During the normal checks made during the tests, it was discovered that the fuel contained in the tanks of cars #1 and #6 was not exactly what was expected. The FIA now has on each circuit a portable instrumentation suitable to carry out the analysis in a time-range that varies between 30 minutes and 2 hours. The technical commissioners had communicated their discovery at the very last, not to allow the suspects to substitute the fuel for the race. Once the competition finished (with Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard first and second: if the first at the finish were Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert, nothing would have happened), they made other samples and the expert appointed by the FIA, the Briton Bob Mackison, carried out a second examination.
From which it evidently turned out that the petrol still did not conform. For this reason, it is noted that Benetton and Williams have violated art. 16 paragraph 7 of the technical regulations of Formula 1. After hearing the defence of the parties, the sports commissioners, according to art. 141 and 158, announce the exclusion of the two drivers from the competition. Article 16.7 of the technical regulations of Formula 1 requires manufacturers to send to the FIA a sample of the petrol they intend to use during the race. The norm requires that the fuel, although more sophisticated, is like that of public petrol stations. To be considered regular, the laboratories of the Federation examine the product to later approve it. After the green light, the fuel can be supplied to the teams for the race. In case of changes, the procedure must be repeated. The stewards then check whether the fuel actually fed into the tanks (in the tests and in the race) is the homologated one. If it is different, the consequence is a disqualification. Elf claims that the petrol was identical to the samples, but some elements may have undergone minor changes during the journey from Europe. It must be said that the serious decision affects two teams, but it involves their respective suppliers above all, in this case Renault for the engines and Elf for the petrol. Flavio Briatore and Michael Schumacher for Benetton and David Coulthard for Williams said that they were not only surprised, but also totally oblivious. The Italian manager admits:
"We take what they give us, and we don’t know for sure what’s inside the fuel. However, I’m convinced that there was no intention to cheat".
The Elf representatives say that petrol is like a delicate wine. Transporting it, subjecting it to different temperatures and pressures, can cause it to slightly chance. Agip technicians also confirm this version of the story. According to French tankers, their product would be regular. What will happen now? Williams and Benetton announce an appeal. New analyses will be carried out by both parties (FIA and penalised teams) in different laboratories. The results will then be submitted to the Court of Appeal, which will make the final decision. All this should occur before the Argentine Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, April 9, 1995. If the measures are confirmed, the ranking after the two disqualifications will remain the same, otherwise the race will be restored. But, in any case, Formula 1 will have lost, once again, credibility.
Ferrari's men waited until the first shadows of the evening for the decision of the sports stewards. And, while the mechanics are still working to ship the material to Argentina, it turns out that Gerhard Berger was promoted to race winner, with Alesi in third place. Hugs, smiles, but not a loud statement. Says Gerhard Berger, who appeared very tired, with an unkempt beard:
"It’s clear that I’m happy. Starting the season with 10 points in the standings is the dream of all drivers. A quite different start from what would have been with the third place. I don’t know what exactly happened. Our team always does everything possible to comply with the rules and this is important".
But is it possible to think that the suspicious irregularity of the petrol used for the Renault engines could have affected the performance of both Benetton and Williams?
"I can’t answer that question. The only thing I know for sure is that they were going really fast. I was frustrated, seeing that they had a one-lap lead. My point of view is simple: if one doesn’t abide by the rules, he must be punished. We’ve always fought for this. Let’s say that if the situation doesn’t change with the next decisions, for Ferrari this is a nice injection of confidence, an extra motivation to do well: you want to know if I feel sorry for Schumacher and Coulthard? I’m for legality, fair play, and compliance".
The speech of the Head of Sports Management, Jean Todt, was very calm.
"It’s always nice to enjoy a victory, even four hours after the race ended. Everyone has done their duty here. If two cars have been disqualified, there’s obviously a reason. The FIA has acted for the good of Formula 1. But I hope that such days will end".
What influence could the possible irregularity of petrol have had on the race?
"I don’t know if it had any importance. We’ll see in two weeks in Buenos Aires if something will change. Right now, we have 14 points in the standings, which are obviously much better than 6. It can be a great stimulus for the team, even if the problems remain. In practice, we were down of about a second, in the race we were about 1.3. We must understand why. And our task now is to improve, no matter what others do. There will be an appeal, and it would not contribute to keeping the lead of the championship for fourteen days. Let’s look for confirmation".
In fact, Ferrari has an extensive program of modifications concerning the car. While the drivers are on holiday (says Berger: "But I will keep in daily contact with Todt, ready to try at any time"), in Fiorano people work hard. Nicola Larini will run some engine and electronics tests on a hybrid car at the Monza track. The second version of the 3000-cc engine is already being tested and should provide more power. Reliability, which had been the aim since the start of the World Championship, paid off on the one hand, but the fastest performance was anyway lower than expected. In addition, significant changes to aerodynamics and perhaps to the suspension are planned. It should be noted that on Saturday, the FIA decided to amend an article of the regulations concerning engine air intakes. In 1994, to reduce performance, it was decided to open loopholes in the bodywork to drain the power flow and avoid special turbo-dynamic effects designed to increase power. Being unable to ensure effective control over the use of the new devices adopted by the teams (see the spoiler mounted on the hood by McLaren), it was decided to restore the classic air-boxes placed in the roll-bar area so that all competitors are on the same plane.