#556 1994 British Grand Prix

2021-04-07 00:00

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#1994, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#556 1994 British Grand Prix

On Thursday, the 7th of July 1994, the motorsport world mourns a great man. The news comes as the Formula 1 Circus pitches its tents at Silverstone fo


On Thursday, 7 July, 1994, the motorsport world mourns a great man. The news comes as the Formula 1 Circus pitches its tents at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. Carlo Chiti passes away at the age of 71. A heart attack, in the course of the morning, in Milan. With him goes a piece of motor racing history. A total, all-round technician with a special passion for engines, to which he dedicated a large part of his life. Carlo Chiti was born in Pistoia on 19 December, 1924. In 1952, he graduated in aeronautical engineering at the Pisa University, but never thought about aviation. He immediately got a job in the research department of Alfa Romeo. In 1957, called by Enzo Ferrari, he moved to Maranello, where he soon became technical director. And in 1961 with the 156 designed by him Phil Hill won the world title. Among his achievements was the 6-cylinder Dino engine. But he was restless, always looking for new adventures. In 1962 he founded the ATS in Bologna, with plans to race in Formula 1. He also built a beautiful GT, but the racing plan failed for lack of money. Two years later he was already a partner at Autodelta in Udine working for Alfa Romeo. Having moved to Settimo Milanese, Chiti brought all his exuberant skills to the service of the Milanese company. Twenty years of races, of successes, of battles. With cars now worthy of anthology, such as the TZ and the GTA. Then the 33, a prototype with which he won the world sportscar championship. And six world titles in the 2000 class, together with eight championships in the ETCC. In 1970, the Tuscan engineer brought Alfa back into Formula 1, supplying an 8-cylinder to McLaren, then engines to March. From 1976 he was with Brabham (two victories for Niki Lauda). Two seasons later, an all Alfa Romeo car arrived and at the end of 1982 all the material passed to Euroracing. Chiti left the Milanese team, but opened his own company, Motori Moderni, with which he worked with Minardi for four years, also selling engines to the Japanese Subaru. He had been on the fringes of racing for some time, but continued the business, always collaborating with Alfa Romeo and anyone who wanted to use his enormous experience. He was still seen recently at Monza. A big man, always intent on eating sandwiches. What a character: one remembers him with a kerchief knotted on his head, sweating in the pits, dressed in dark, with a jumper under his jacket, even when the temperature was atrocious. 


"Come on, the heat is nothing. The draughts are worse". 


Brilliant, volcanic, a bit ruffled, controversial, critical, generous. Those in need turned to him. He loved animals without limit, dogs in particular. At Ferrari he had Pippo, at ATS there was Tinker Bell, at Autodelta there was L'Orbina and Tinker Bell II. L'Orbina was a little purblind dog, also nicknamed Dayan because he had a black eye patch, like the famous Israeli general. At home, he had three dwarf Pinchers, Delilah, Homer and Brutus. Of the latter, Chiti said he could sing and wanted to put him on television because he was talented. The Orbina was used to frighten Lauda: 


"Does Niki know that the dog has peed inside the cylinders?"


Carlo Chiti leaves behind his wife Lina and children Arturo and Olga. The funeral will be held on Saturday, 9 July 1994, in Milan. Many mourn him. Andrea de Cesaris, one of the many drivers who raced in the engineer's cars, says:


"He was gruff on the outside. Initially he put you in fear. He didn't like to admit that something broke on his cars. I remember that on the first race the engine gave out: I was forced to say that it was the gearbox. But it was one of his love vices. On a human level he was extraordinary".


The world of Formula 1, engaged in the British Grand Prix, will not officially remember Carlo Chiti. On Friday,8 July, 1994, the first qualifying session took to the track with animated spirits. There was controversy because the track was almost completely rebuilt to solve the safety problems as best as possible. An extraordinary job. But the new track has only been tested by the British teams, the others run in the dark. 


Ferrari debuts the 412 T1/B with the new titanium gearbox. And the new 043 engine (officially called E5 A 94) will also be used for a timed session. The car to beat is still Schumacher's Benetton, which with a time of 1'27"0 set the best time in the last practice run before the start of the race weekend. Friday, the 8 July, 1994, Ferrari keeps its promises, at least for now, and takes another small step towards competitiveness. On a very cloudy day, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi take P2 and P3 on the provisional grid for the British Grand Prix, behind the usual Schumacher. So Saturday could see a close battle. An attack on the German's Benetton, launched from several sides. Because even Williams, slowed down in the first timed session by several troubles, shows to have great ambitions. Michael Schumacher, at the end of practice, confessed:


"I did not expect such a fierce fight: Hill and the Ferraris were quick, even too quick. I can still improve, but I'd better concentrate on tomorrow's race". 


And to say that Ferrari had started in the worst way. In the morning Gerhard Berger had broken an engine on the first lap of free practice and had been unable to fine-tune the single-seater. Jean Alesi was only in P14 because a gearbox automatism was not working. And the two came into qualifying with the set-up of the cars still to be prepared. So it was only on the last lap that they managed to leapfrog behind Michael Schumacher. Gerhard Berger explains:


"I am happy, but it was difficult. Unlike the British teams, we had never tested on the renovated circuit. We didn't know the corners, the braking points. We had to improvise. But this shows that the new 412T1/B responds well. As far as I am concerned, the car is still not perfect in the slow corners, but we are on the right track". 


And the French driver adds: 


"Despite the problems, we went fast. I am happy with the car's behaviour even in the less fast corners, the balance is good".


On Saturday, the two Ferrari drivers will also have to reckon with Damon Hill, who, under pressure in front of the English crowd, made a lot of mistakes. Williams used its new RS6 B engine, the Italian team will only use the famous 043 on Saturday afternoon. A fight on equal terms, then. But Berger preaches calm:


"Let's stay calm. I have tried this engine three times. On the first two occasions I liked it, it went less well on the last one. I asked for modifications. Let's hope". 


But what attracted the most attention was the news of Marco Piccinini's decision, announced in Rome, not to hold the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, 11 September, 1994. The president of the Italian Motor Sports Commission (which has put the ACI in charge) recalls that he voted against the request of the Formula 1 manufacturers who wanted to change the most qualifying part of the safety measures launched after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna with others of much lesser effectiveness.


"The solution proposed by the teams seems inadequate, particularly on fast circuits". 


Hence the decision to suspend permission to race at Monza until 31 December, 1994, when the new rules come into force: 


"If a serious accident were to occur, public opinion and the Italian authorities would not understand why the race was run despite the fact that the safety measures announced as indispensable had been replaced with others of lesser weight". 


But hardly anyone likes Marco Piccinini's stance, especially in Ferrari. Gerhard Berger, from England, replies:


"I don't understand where Piccinini is going with this. Drivers, constructors, the FIA itself agree. The problem now is not the cars but the circuits. We asked for three changes at Monza. Magny-Cours and Silverstone adapted perfectly. I don't see why we now have to muddle the situation with a decision that smacks of a political move". 


Niki Lauda is also very judgmental:


"It is madness to cancel the Italian Grand Prix as a matter of principle. Everything possible has been done so far. Of course, to race it will be necessary for Monza to make the required track changes. Do people prefer a cut tree or a dead driver? For every plant removed, a thousand can be planted a little further away". 


In the milieu, however, there is a bet that the circuit will be modified, and there are those who see in Piccinini's attitude a tactic to obtain those changes that, due to opposition of various kinds, it would not be possible to have otherwise. On Saturday, 9 July, 1994, at the end of qualifying the thought comes to everyone's mind that it had been years since we had seen such an uncertain battle. Three cars and three drivers committed to the spasm, a challenge to the centimetre, amidst a thousand emotions and twists and turns. In the end Damon Hill prevails with his Williams. The Englishman started on pole position (the fourth of his career, the second consecutive) after trailing Michael Schumacher and his Benetton by 0.003 seconds and Gerhard Berger driving a Ferrari by 0.02 seconds. But, for the first time in a long time, the three protagonists fight on equal terms. All three complain about the traffic on the track. But, honestly, Damon Hill is the least damaged and at the end he celebrates his feat by hugging and kissing his beautiful wife Georgie, mother of his two sons Oliver and Joshua. Schumacher, very black in the face, on the other hand, just got out of his car and stood aside for a few minutes. Initially, the German driver does not want to talk, then he complains:


"I found Alboreto in my path twice and Belmondo once. They ruined everything, I could have done it".


Earlier, from the cockpit, Michael Schumacher had called Flavio Briatore via radio. 


"Are you very good friends with Alboreto? Then tell him to go to hell". 


But the Italian, having finished rehearsing, replied in kind: 


"That guy is seeing things through, I let him through twice, putting myself to one side. At the end then I had already been in the pits for a quarter of an hour". 


At the end of practice there were also recriminations from Gerhard Berger, who on his second attempt, on the last intermediate lap, had a 0.6 second lead over Damon Hill:


"It's unbelievable. I found Hakkinen's McLaren travelling through the middle of the track like a snail. It made me throw away a safe pole position. Anyway, Ferrari is growing, we can have a good race".


But the Austrian is also slightly at fault. In his final attempt to overtake his rivals, coming out of the pits, he hit a guardrail, breaking the left front wheel. 


"I didn't understand whether the car had a sudden understeer that I couldn't control or whether I made a mistake". 


But it sounded more like an excuse for carelessness in the heat of the competition. It can happen. More gloomy appeared Jean Alesi, who was unable to fight with the best and had to settle for fourth place. 


"My car had a terrible oversteer that I could not get rid of. In the end I even gave up because it was pointless, better to save some tyres for the race".


Williams and Ferrari, then, have practically caught up with Benetton in terms of lap performance. But today the English and Italian teams will have to abandon the new engines fitted for qualifying (in all probability they will be used for the whole weekend in the German Grand Prix). For this reason Michael Schumacher remains the favourite, thanks to his skill and the high performance of his car. However, the race will be contested and played out at a faster pace than usual. And, when under pressure, anything can happen. Once again, tyres, tactics and pit stops will play a decisive role. Here at Silverstone the entry lane is very long and therefore a pit stop becomes particularly penalising. Schumacher is aiming for a further win to already secure his first world title. But this time it will be difficult for the German to steal first position at the start. And if he succeeds he will have to look carefully in his rear-view mirrors. On Sunday, 10 July, 1994, during the second formation lap of the British Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher overtakes Damon Hill twice (once coming off the dummy grid, and then again later on the warm-up lap), before returning to his original position and starting from second on the grid. Previously, David Coulthard's Williams-Renault had stalled on the grid, prompting another formation lap, during which the engine of Eddie Irvine's Jordan-Hart broke down. Also on this second formation lap, Michael Schumacher overtook Damon Hill twice. The Peugeot V10 engine of Martin Brundle's McLaren MP4/9 also breaks down on the second start, releasing tongues of fire behind the car. On lap 14, Michael Schumacher receives a five-second penalty for overtaking Damon Hill on the first formation lap. 


The German driver, however, does not serve the penalty until lap 21 and as a result he is shown the black flag twice, forcing him to make an immediate pit stop. At this stage of the race, Michael Schumacher does not recognise the black flag, and later claims that he did not see it. In the meantime, Flavio Briatore talks to the officials, telling them that there was a misunderstanding about the penalty to be served, and after discussing the matter with the team, the officials withdraw the black flag. Thus, Michael Schumacher finally serves his penalty, through a 5-second stop&go at the end of lap 27. The race continues as normal, except for Gerhard Berger's retirement on lap 32, due to engine failure, until Mika Häkkinen and Rubens Barrichello collide while fighting for fourth place on the final lap. Rubens Barrichello stops his damaged car in the pits, not realising that he is on the last lap, while Mika Häkkinen - although with a badly damaged car - continues slowly to the finish line. Damon Hill wins the British Grand Prix prevailing over Michael Schumacher (the German driver will be disqualified for not respecting the marshals' orders), Jean Alesi, Mika Häkkinen, Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard, who managed to recover sixth position after recovering from last place (Ukyo Katayama, in his Tyrrell-Yamaha, would only get his fifth point in the season and in his career, as well as his last point in Formula 1, after Michael Schumacher's disqualification). His father, the famous Graham Hill, twice World Champion in 1962 and 1968, had never managed to win in England. His son, Damon Hill, made up for it by winning the British Grand Prix. 


No longer at a tender age (he is almost 34), the Williams driver accomplished his finest feat, winning a victory that honestly - and the facts prove it - was out of his and his car's reach. But whoever crosses the finish line first is always right. And the result, at the halfway mark of the World Championship, after eight races and as many to go, re-launches the Englishman in the standings, even though Schumacher's lead (33 points) is enormous. Damon Hill is happy and winning, but the real protagonist was Michael Schumacher, who finished second after a race that was, to say the least, daring and tormented, in which Jean Alesi in a Ferrari took his usual good third place. The German was the fastest of all and on balance, in terms of performance, deserved to win the race. But he also made many mistakes and should have been disqualified. Instead, thanks to team headmaster Flavio Briatore, he only received a $25.000 fine, while the team received an official reprimand for not having interpreted the rules properly. A very biased decision, that of the stewards. Let's start from the beginning, that is to say from the formation lap, which was carried out twice because in the first one the Scotsman Coulthard had let the engine of his Williams turn off and the procedure was repeated. On this second lap, Michael Schumacher, in second position, overtook Damon Hill who was in pole position. This manoeuvre is absolutely forbidden and causes a penalty that is at the discretion of the authority, but can go as far as exclusion from the race. On lap 14 (Hill in the lead, after an excellent start) the marshals brought a note to the Benetton timing station indicating a 5-second penalty. Flavio Briatore first went to talk to Bernie Ecclestone, then got into an argument with the race director, Roland Bruynseraede. Meanwhile, a black flag with the number 5, the number of Schumacher's car, was displayed. This flag (which was raised for two laps) meant the exclusion from the race. Six more laps and Michael Schumacher came into the pits, stopped at the exit for five seconds and restarted. Damon Hill was obviously now uncatchable and went on to win. 


The German had no choice but to settle for second position. The gap between the two protagonists in the end was 18 seconds. The stop cost an additional 35 seconds. It doesn't take much to understand that Michael would have dominated. But whoever makes a mistake should pay. Nigel Mansell with Ferrari, in 1989 in Portugal, for not having respected the black flag was excluded from the race and disqualified for the following Spanish Grand Prix. Coincidentally, however, the next race will be held in Germany, and is organised by Bernie Ecclestone. Two weights and two measures. However, for Schumacher and Benetton, the Hill-Williams threat becomes concrete. The rest is known. Ferrari also led for four laps with Gerhard Berger, from lap 18 to lap 21. That's not much, but that hadn't happened yet this year. Behind Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jean Alesi were Mika Hakkinen with McLaren, Rubens Barrichello (Jordan) and the good David Coulthard who started from last. After battling for fourth place, Hakkinen and Barrichello collided in the last corner and the Brazilian crossed the finish line with the damaged car, passing through the pit lane (allowed). Big words and mutual accusations followed between the two, but no complaints. The standings of the British Grand Prix remained in suspense until 6:00 p.m., when the FIA press officer communicated the stewards' decision to fine Michael Schumacher and book the Benetton team. To tell the truth, nobody thought that the German would be disqualified, even if there were all the elements to do so. In fact, if the driver made a mistake and deliberately didn't respect the signal with the black flag which required him to stop in the pits, it all stemmed from a carelessness on the part of the stewards, who were inaccurate in their actions. When they communicated the 5-second penalty imposed on him, they forgot to specify that it should have been atoned for with a Stop&Go, i.e. with a stop in the box and restart (which the driver did, but only after several laps). Thus, Flavio Briatore was able to take the opportunity to start discussing with the race director, pointing out that the team had not been warned.


"There was a misunderstanding. We thought that the 5 seconds would be added to Michael's time at the end of the race. Furthermore, the communication was made to us after twenty minutes, while the regulation requires that it take place within a quarter of an hour. When everything was cleared up, we called the driver into the pits, who was still racing regularly. It seems to me that Schumacher has already paid heavily for his mistake in the starting lap. He lost a race that he could have won very well".


But he too could have been punished much more severely…


"I don't see why, we had a discussion with Bruynseraede and he agreed. After all, we made a nice gift to Williams who was able to win the race on the English track. Let's hope that they behave in the same way with us by leaving us the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, assuming that they do".


No one has the courage to make a complaint against Benetton. But this is a well-established practice in Formula 1. Going against someone, especially against those who are politically strong, is dangerous and counterproductive. And since there are plenty of flaws to forgive everywhere, it's best left alone. The regulation, although often incomplete, is very clear: it says that penalties in seconds can only be imposed for facts that occur more than 12 laps from the end of a race. And this happened before the start. The comments from the other teams are also very cautious. Only Jean Todt, head of Ferrari, makes a clarification, after a specific question on the matter. 


"I don't want to go into the merits of the decisions taken, but I would advise Briatore to go and read the regulations".


But it is clear that the Benetton boss (or someone for him) knows the rules so well that he uses all the folds in his favour. However, what happened at Silverstone could have dangerous implications in the future. With a precedent as striking as it is important, the controversies and discussions in similar cases will never end. The fact that the commissioners fined Michael Schumacher and warned Benetton is an admission of guilt alone. If they were innocent they should have been acquitted. Instead it was preferred to take the middle path, the political one, which does not do justice to sport. And, in fact, the FIA world council could be called upon to rule on what has now become the Schumacher affair, and impose a heavy fine on the Benetton-Ford driver, who risks losing the six points he earned thanks to his second place. The benevolence of the British race stewards, who limited themselves to punishing the impropriety with a simple fine of 25.000 dollars, angered the president of the FIA, Max Mosley, who immediately demanded a full report on what happened to the Federation observer on the English track. Depending on what is written in the document, Mosley will then decide whether to consult the World Council, which will have to pronounce itself by fax, since the next meeting is scheduled only for the first week of October. The story is serious because it creates a dangerous precedent and can lead to distrust of sports authorities. Meanwhile, Damon Hill is now referred to by English fans and the British press as Damon the Demon. But so far he had enjoyed very little consideration in the English fans who have always preferred the discussed and not always loved (especially by the press) Nigel Mansell. In reality, the new British hero is a decent boy, all work and family, who arrived in Formula 1 almost by chance and became the first driver at Williams only for the subsequent retirements of Nigel Mansell himself and Alain Prost. A driver who, to tell the truth, for the moment has never enjoyed full trust not even from his team, given that he has done everything to get the moustachioed Nigel back who will return to racing in Formula 1 at the end of the season.


"It was an absolutely fantastic race, like a dream. Certainly the best day of my life came true: I think this victory closed a hole left by my father in his extraordinary career. After the French Grand Prix, when Schumacher had overtaken at the first corner, I almost thought more about looking in the rear-view mirrors to see where the German's car was than about pressing the accelerator. I was convinced he would try to do it again. Instead he failed, this time".


But was the race difficult?


"All racing is not easy. I think I rode well, I didn't make any mistakes and the tactic was the right one too. I pitted for tire changes and refuelling a little earlier than expected as we had calculated that we could get back out of the lapped traffic. Everything went very well. Schumacher's penalty? It was a divine gift for us, but I'm still convinced that the race would have been very close anyway, because we didn't spend the maximum".


Damon Hill still hugs his wife Georgie, but an unexpected award arrives for him on the podium. The Winner's Cup is presented to him by Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, the separated consort of Charles of England. Diaphanous and beautiful, Diana, dressed in a long cream-coloured skirt and jacket of the same colour, without saying a word, gives him an additional emotion. This is Damon Hill's fifth hit, his second this year. It's too early to say that he will actually be able to fight for the title, given Michael Schumacher's advantage and ability. But certainly the affirmation on the Silverstone circuit will give the Englishman a morale boost and confidence that he didn't have before. However, a rosy future does not hover over Damon Hill. He will be able to fight for the World Championship, maybe give Michael Schumacher a little annoyance, have fun and become more popular over the course of the season. But it is said that Williams will reconfirm him next year. Indeed, the chances of him remaining in Didcot's team are slim. As is known, the sponsors of the reigning World Champion team have lobbied hard to get Nigel Mansell back. The moustachioed Englishman raced in France and - apparently - already has a contract to compete in the last three or four championship races in Formula 1. If things don't change somehow, Nigel Mansell will be Williams' first driver in the 1995 World Championship. If these forecasts are right, Williams will almost certainly not make a Mansell-Hill duo, but will include the young David Coulthard in the line-up. The latter was the real revelation of the British Grand Prix. Even if few had the time to notice it, since attention was monopolised by the Schumacher case, first disqualified and then only partially punished. Changing the subject and talking about Ferrari, the Maranello team took the seventh podium out of eight races at Silverstone. This time on the third step, alongside Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher, was Jean Alesi. So the Frenchman was able to put his mind at rest, given that he suffers from being behind his teammate. The two are tied in third place in the standings, both with 17 points. A useful result for the Maranello team, but as was to be expected, the 412T1/Bs did not appear competitive against Williams and Benetton. But this - according to Todt's plans - was only a general rehearsal. In Germany, at the end of the month, when the Maranello cars will have all the recently produced material available, there will be the final exam. At the end of the race, Jean Alesi says:


"I'm happy. President Montezemolo had asked me to take pole position; I didn't succeed, but I hope I made up for it with this placement. However, I basically had to run a race against my nature. The car had never been right over the weekend, so we decided to go into the race defensively. Even though in the morning we had almost completely resolved the oversteer problem that had tormented me during qualifying, I preferred to be cautious. I had insisted on using a certain front wing that didn't fit. However, this tactic paid off in the end: I only stopped once in the pits to change tires and refuel. At Silverstone, overtaking is now difficult and it would have been a problem to restart after two pit-stops to regain some positions".


But has Ferrari taken a step forward?


"In timed qualifying, yes, in the race we are still a long way off. Clearly I didn't have much fun: I had to be careful not to wear out the tires too much and the car was heavy because there was a lot of petrol in the tank. But the end justifies the means. For this I am satisfied. Now I'm taking a little vacation, then everyone gets to work preparing for Hockenheim. I have to admit that I'm very anxious".


After congratulating Damon Hill, Jean Alesi leaves by helicopter from the airport circuit and then towards Sicily where his relatives await him in Alcamo and his new boat not far away on which he will spend a few days at the sea together with his parents and brother Jose. Gerhard Berger also leaves Silverstone together with the French driver, a little disappointed at being forced to abandon the race prematurely.


"The pneumatic valves have failed me. There was a leak and the engine failed. The car wasn't perfect right from the start and I don't think I too could have gone beyond the third place I had achieved up to the moment of retirement. In the warm-up there had been a vibration on the race car and I had lapped with the reserve car, which, however, had a lacklustre engine. So I took over the first car. But the steering got stiff and it was very difficult to drive. In short, I didn't go the right way, here in England".


In fact, Berger had also been fined $10,000 this morning for exceeding the 80km/h limit imposed in the pit lane. But it hadn't been his fault: the automatic speed limiter hadn't worked. Which is why the fine will be paid by Ferrari. However, now the Maranello team must think above all about the future. There are scarce three weeks of time to prepare all the news in view of Hockenheim. Above all, the new 043 engine must be tested. In addition, the aerodynamic balance of the cars that wear out the tires too much must still be corrected. Will the time available be enough?



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