#563 1994 Japanese Grand Prix

2021-03-31 00:00

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#1994, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#563 1994 Japanese Grand Prix

In presenting in Florence the party that Ferrari organizes at Mugello, on Tuesday October 18th 1994 Jean Todt in charge of Sports Management, harshly


While presenting in Florence the party that Ferrari organises at Mugello, on Tuesday, 18 October 1994, Jean Todt, in charge of Sports Management, harshly replies to the outbursts of his drivers after the Grand Prix held in Jerez: 


"We know that for Ferrari passion, both positive and negative, is a lot. But the statements made by Alesi and Berger on Sunday were exaggerated. We should always try to stay close to the two drivers when they get out of the car to calm their tensions, but in Formula 1 is not always so easy. We’re not happy with the results in Spain either, but we’re not magicians. We’ll talk to them: they’re smart, I hope they understand. Also because this season is not to be thrown away and it is not over: we expect two races within our reach". 


On Sunday, 23 October 1994, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger will be present at the Mugello circuit where, after the success of 1993, will be hosted in the weekend the Ferrari Festival, with free access. Over 130 racing cars will battle on the track in a series of races. Among the most anticipated events, the finals of the 348 Challenge 1994, the trophy reserved for Ferrari customers; the first Italian F333 SP (the sportscar designed by Ferrari for American customers who compete in the IMSA championship), which will confront thirty vintage cars; and, in conclusion, the exhibition of Alesi and Berger with their cars. As for the racing team, on Wednesday and Thursday, Larini will be in Monza for engine tests. Meanwhile in Paris, the FIA publishes the provisional calendar of the 1995 World Championship. Eighteen races have been entered, but some are at risk such as the Argentine, the Spanish and especially the San Marino Grand Prix. Before deciding, Formula 1 fans await the results of the judicial inquiry into the death of Ratzenberger and Senna. If the fault will be attributed to the circuit, it is very unlikely that the race will be held, unless the track is radically changed (In this regard, Saturday, October 22, 1994 it is confirmed that the forensic report delivered in the weeks preceding the Bolognese judiciary, which investigates the death of Ayrton Senna in Imola, would confirm that the driver would be materially killed by a front suspension arm penetrated into the helmet). Latest news: it seems that Mercedes has bought McLaren and on Wednesday, 19 October1994, Wendlinger, after the accident on Saturday, 15 May 1994 in Monte-Carlo, will test the Sauber at Le Castellet. On Friday, 28 October 1994, after months of rumours, McLaren and Mercedes officially announced their marriage in Formula 1. 


The German company will provide, from 1995, its engines to the English team. Stated goal: to be already competitive next year and win the 1996 World Championship. Ambitions are not unfounded, given the names at stake. Mercedes, which had only twelve races, achieved eight pole positions and nine victories, winning the world titles in 1954 (together with Maserati) and in 1955 with Juan Manuel Fangio. McLaren has scored seven times in the last ten years. For Formula 1, it’s obviously a bargain. The presence of Mercedes, along with Ferrari, Ford, Renault, Peugeot, Yamaha and Mugen-Honda guarantees high-level challenges and - hopefully - spectacle. However, the perverse mechanism that has triggered in the motorsport Circus is worrying. For some time, in fact, in the game of huge interests, contracts do not matter anymore, neither for the drivers, nor for the teams. To get the Mercedes (with the excuse that the partner also guarantees other exchanges at a technological and industrial level), McLaren has literally killed Peugeot. There was an agreement for three years, but it was terminated after only one season. And Peugeot was forced to joinJordan (and who knows if they had any luck...). Ford leading the World Championship with Michael Schumacher has been abandoned by Benetton for Renault and has not, as absurd as it sounds, a top team to provide to. They will have to settle for less. A war of engines and money. On the one hand, the teams that try to take full advantage of the car companies in terms of funding and potential, on the other, prestigious brands that seek advertising in racing, spending huge sums. For Mercedes we speak of 100 billion lire (plus another 50 billion lire for Formula Indy and DTM, with a commitment to 360 degrees for the German company), but probably the investment is much higher. In the press conference held in Stuttgart, the patron of McLaren, Ron Dennis, even proposes the hypothesis of having Michael Schumacher available already in 1995, and it is assumed that the German driver will reach his team the following year.


Schumacher himself is forced to make a statement in which he says in first person: 


"I’m driving Benetton next season. As far as 1996 is concerned, nothing is decided yet, but if the car’s performance and the team’s relationships will always be satisfactory I don’t see any reasons to change. However, I will not make a decision until late autumn 1995". 


Fair play is over. Interference on the agenda. And there is no mercy for anyone. Benetton, who noticed that Jos Verstappen would not be able to help Michael Schumacher in the title battle with Damon Hill, immediately dismissed him. And in Japan, alongside Michael Schumacher, Johnny Herbert will race. So Ligier hires the Frenchman Franck Lagorce. For money, Simtek takes the Japanese Taki Inoue for the Grand Prix of Japan, while in Australia they will give the car to the Italian Vincenzo Sospiri. Larrousse fired Érik Comas, replacing him with the semi-unknown Swiss Jean-Denis Deletraz. All drivers who bring money. In short, even Formula 1 is the mirror of a world that respects few values. But in Japan, it is especially important that the fight for the victory of the Formula 1 World Championship could already be decided in Suzuka, with a test ahead of the end of the season. The German driver has 5 points in the standings over his rival. And, therefore, many chances to close the conversation. If Schumacher wins, Hill will only have second place to hope for a miracle in Adelaide the following week. But Michael could also be satisfied with second place if Hill does not enter the top six. For the first time since the beginning of the season, however, the world-wide battle presents itself with some complications. And therefore with greater suspense. The Williams driver will have a slightly more competitive Mansell at his service than he was when he returned to Formula 1 at Jerez. Frank Williams, in this regard, is categorical: 


"If necessary, Nigel will stop even one metre from the finish line to favour his teammate". 


But Michael Schumacher will no longer be practically alone as he has been up to now. J.J. Lehto and Jos Verstappen did not help him in fourteen races. So Benetton plays its card. However, after picking up Johnny Herbert from Lotus to put him on the Ligier, now it pulls him out like a wild card next to the German. Herbert is not a driver to be underestimated: fast and decisive, with a competitive car like Benetton, in fact, it could be the winning weapon to remove valuable points to Damon Hill. Another component to be taken into account is the outsiders. McLaren is still looking for the first win of the year and it seems to have made progress. Ferrari, which has postponed to the last two races the chance to repeat the success of Hockenheim. It seems that the 412T/1B, still modified, are improved in the tightness. Recently, Nicola Larini, in practice in Fiorano, scored the best time recorded by this car on the home track. To some careful observers it has not escaped that the Tuscan could accelerate before the exit of the curves, which was not the case previously. Hope is always the last to die. And in any case Ferrari both in Japan and in Australia should be much more competitive than in Spain three weeks ago. The two of them, Schumacher and Hill, will go all-in. Both with anger. Two completely different characters, in extreme situations. The German is the winning man in Formula 1, the candidate for the difficult replacement of Ayrton Senna, if not in the heart of the fans, at least in the results. He won a lot: eight wins, plus one disqualified. Michael also lost a second place (at Silverstone) and he suffered a penalty for two races, during which he was left to watch. In total, he ran four races less than his opponent. The title should already be largely his and even deserved, if it is true that the suspicions circulating in the environment about the regularity of his car are unfounded. He is however a gritty driver, who misses very little, endowed with a huge talent. On the other side of the fence we find a Damon Hill who on the human level has won this chance to win the World Championship. A guy who arrived late in Formula 1 (he denounced 32 years, but in reality he is 34), hidden behind the overwhelming shadow of his father, Graham Hill, who had been an extraordinary champion and a prominent character. It is difficult to come out when you have been throughout the view hidden behind a pillar. In addition, Damon was never considered a driver of great value: in Formula 3000 he went off the track very regularly; in Formula 1, passed to the role of first driver, he had difficulty in containing the assaults of the young David Coulthard. Michael Schumacher’s triumph will be that of a practically perfect driver.


If luck comes to Damon Hill, he will reward a normal but ultimately brave guy. More like everyday drivers. On Wednesday, 2 November 1994, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill did not meet on their first day in Japan. The German driver arrives in the Japanese capital, welcomed as a triumphant by a flood of fans. The Englishman lands in Nagoya, where no one is present waiting for him, he takes a bus with journalists and photographers and, along the road leading to the Suzuka circuit, complains of his rival, saying that he has no respect for him, who considers him a sleazy character. When the victory of the Formula 1 World Championship is at stake, war suddenly breaks out among the pretenders, fair play disappears, deep animosity is discovered, and it is hard to hide grudges. It has already happened, it will still happen. Michael Schumacher doesn’t even have time to think about a reply. Michael is overwhelmed by a party that one of the main sponsors of Benetton organises in his honour, for teammate Johnny Herbert and for the drivers of Tyrrell-Yamaha, Ukyo Katayama and Mark Blundell. Hundreds of fans applauded him in the Ski Dome in Tokyo, a futuristic indoor ski facility costing 600 billion lire. In the 500-metre long track, on which he runs every day of the year, the leader of the World Championship enjoys throwing snowballs, playing until late afternoon. 


"I’m fine, I’m still relaxing, I don’t have problems. Jerez’s victory gave me an incredible morale and the right motivation to face the last two races of the season with the right spirit to win". 


But they say that the Suzuka track is more favourable to Williams…


"Probably so. But it’s still to be seen. From tomorrow the chronometers will speak. And then it will not be so much the qualifying as the race on Sunday. A race in which I have the maximum confidence". 


I mean, Damon Hill has no chance, he has to win. 


"There are two very important reasons that explain my peace of mind. The first comes from the fact that I have 5 points ahead: this margin allows me to face any response at the end of the race. Even if I don’t make it to the finish line, I’ll still have an appeal in a week in Adelaide. The second, not to be underestimated, is psychological in nature. In Spain, in the European Grand Prix, Williams suffered, just as a team, a burning defeat, one of those that leave a mark. He could do something wrong". 


But will the Japanese Grand Prix be a private affair between Schumacher and Hill? 


"That has been the case so far. I don’t see why that should change. Of course, there are many who want to look good. The Tyrrell, for example, which has the Yamaha engine and Katayama as a pilot, could cause trouble. Then the Jordan, which has gone so well in the last races and let’s also put McLaren. But they are still outsiders, people who do not have the same consistency as us. And then I do not ask to dominate sharply as it happened in Jerez. I’ll just need a few seconds of advantage...". 


He didn’t even mention Ferrari... 


"Ah, I forgot. Even Ferrari. But it has travelled on alternating current throughout the season. Sometimes very well, as in Hockenheim, although I am convinced that I could have won if I had not broken the engine, on other occasions it was not competitive. So I can’t consider it a dangerous opponent. And then if Alesi and Berger really go strong, they could damage Hill who needs to win". 


Is this the real difference between Schumacher and Williams' Englishman? 


"I would say yes. I can afford to run for second place, he only needs the first. This does not mean that I will not seek victory, on the contrary. I would very much like to close the accounts with Dan before going to Australia. But I have no constraints, no obligations. And this makes me even stronger, capable of anything".


There is a lot of talk about teammates, Herbert and Mansell. What role can they play? 


"I’m glad to have Johnny by my side. He’s a fast and very nice guy. The right driver to bring points to the team, so as to also win the constructors' title. Otherwise, I don’t think Herbert and Mansell will have a chance to decide our challenge, between me and Hill. It’s between us, a head-to-head I’m not afraid of. Although I know it will be difficult, because the Suzuka circuit could reward the power of Williams' Renault engine. I also accept this handicap. My championship has been an obstacle course and I think we have managed to overcome them quite well so far". 


Michael Schumacher is very charged, therefore, almost presumptuous. But when you win nine races in a season on all the circuits in the world it’s easier to be optimistic. And peace of mind, on these occasions, helps a lot. Michael is determined to immediately beat the opponent. It will be difficult to stop him. The Japanese love Ferrari viscerally. For the myth of Maranello they feel passion and respect. Among the fans that are at the circuit there are countless caps with the coat of arms of Ferrari or red flags with the symbols of the team of Maranello. And, of course, Berger and Alesi are being pressured ruthlessly by autograph hunters. Jean Alesi admits:


"It’s incredible. That’s one of the reasons I feel so attached to Ferrari. No one can understand what it means to be on this team, not even my family. Those who wrote these days that I could have changed teams didn’t understand anything. Of course, I’m a professional and I have to follow certain rules. But if it were for my will I could never abandon this love: a situation that fascinates me, that keeps me bound. In the most difficult moments I let go of criticism and heavy judgments, but also this is a test of affection. Because I always want everything to be fine, to have the maximum". 


Two races at the end. A life practically without ever winning. Is it possible to resist for a driver who believes himself capable of great feats?


"It’s hard. But I never lost faith. Here in Japan I start with the conviction that I can win the race. If there were no such motivation, it would be stupid to continue. Surely we will do better than in Jerez, one of the worst races. But I don’t think of a Ferrari referee of the challenge between Schumacher and Hill. We want to race for ourselves, without thinking of others. My commitment was everything for me and for the team. The rest counts for nothing". 


Alesi seems to have regained his morale. The Frenchman has gone through a very particular moment in these months. Recently married, with a daughter, he found himself in a broken family, with several practical problems to solve. These days the story has settled, with a deal that satisfies him. Jean Alesi seems more calm, ready to face a race that could give him considerable satisfaction. 


"I want a place in the first two rows for the start on Sunday, and if the car is competitive I will have no fear for anyone". 


Even Gerhard Berger seems to be quite loaded. 


"I really like this circuit. It’s a track that excites me and that makes me pull out all the skills I can have as a driver. In addition, it should favour the characteristics of our car. There’s a climb that requires engine power and a couple of straight ones where horses count a lot. So we should be able to say our word, along with Williams and Benetton. Let us not forget that it was here seven years ago that I broke a long fast of Ferrari victories. I am not sure that we can win as we did in Germany but I am sure that we will be in the group of the best, ready to get on the podium at least". 


As usual, Gerhard Berger is a little more cautious than his teammate. But he doesn’t hide a certain optimism. The Austrian will have on his car all the latest innovations made in Maranello that instead Alesi, not having tried them yet, for the moment has set aside. This is a modified rear suspension and some minor aerodynamic variations. The last ones of the season before thinking about the new car for 1995 that will start to spin as soon as possible. 


"I think the last two races of this year, Japan and Australia, will be very spectacular and hard fought. On one side there is still the Schumacher-Hill challenge, on the other the constructors' title to be played between Williams and Benetton. But other protagonists who have nothing to lose will also come out. As far as I am concerned, I have not set aside my minimum goal of the season, which is to rank third in the ranking of drivers. I must repel the attacks of Hakkinen and McLaren. If something more comes then I will certainly not be the one to throw away any better opportunities". 


If Michael Schumacher takes 6 points more than Damon Hill on Sunday, 6 November1994, he will be the Formula 1 World Champion. He will become the first German to win the sought-after title, succeeding where famous stars like Caracciola and Von Trips failed. It would be a highly deserved result for the Benetton driver, who has shown an undisputed superiority throughout the season, despite a thousand doubts and difficulties. A feat within the reach of the 25-year-old racer from Kerpen, who began his racing career at the age of four driving a kart on the track run by his father. On Friday, 4 November 1994, even on a circuit like Suzuka, made up of long straights and a couple of challenging climbs, Michael Schumacher made sure not to fear rivals. In the first qualifying round, his opponent Damon Hill is almost 0.5 seconds away, leaving behind also the resigning compatriot Heinz-Harald Frentzen with Sauber-Mercedes, with the third fastest time, then, in the following order, Nigel Mansell, teammate Johnny Herbert, Northern Ireland’s Eddie Irvine with Jordan-Hart and Jean Alesi driving the first of the Ferrari (Gerhard Berger is instead relegated to P11). All in all, an unexpected performance, that of Michael Schumacher, who throws in consternation the men of Williams-Renault, sure to prevail here at least in chronometric performance. Frank Williams also admits disconsolately:


"Schumacher is too fast for us, and there will be nothing to do. We will lose the drivers' and constructors' titles". 


The only excuse for Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell is to find traffic on the track. 


"I couldn’t express myself at all, said the challenger - plus our car was still not perfectly on track. I will not give up, but everything now becomes more difficult". 


Nigel instead appeals to memories and the cabal: 


"In 1987 I had 10 points ahead and the World Championship went to Piquet. A simple accident, an outing, forced me to desert the last two races due to a shoulder injury. In our sport anything can happen". 


And he adds:


"Also to have huge advantages and to stay still on the first lap for a failure from nothing. You always have to fight to the last metre. In any case, I will do everything I can to help Damon, he is a good guy who asks nothing and fights especially for the pleasure of competition, a real sportsman". 


The talk seems to be closed between the drivers of Benetton-Ford and Williams-Renault, with a small chance of inclusion by Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Sauber-Mercedes. All the others will fight to the maximum to enter the points, including the Ferrari, appeared in tone with respect to the predictions of the eve. In the first 40 seconds of the circuit, that is in the slowest part, once again the 412T/1B show obvious limits of road holding, despite the great power of the engine. 


Those who designated the Italian cars as referees of the World Championship made a big mistake: the season had started badly for the Maranello team and does not seem to want to end better. Meanwhile, the environment is shaken by the latest decisions of the FIA. After having imposed the abolition of almost all electronic systems at the beginning of the year, the Federation immediately liberalised the use of fly by wire accelerator, that is, without cable. The FIA technicians claim to be able to detect any irregularities from the on-board computers of the cars, so they allowed to adopt the cable-free throttle again. It seems that at the moment no team has mounted it yet, but this still creates suspicion. And, more seriously, with an incredible reverse, the FIA will allow in 1995 to use hydraulic differentials, electronically controlled clutches and various other devices that had been forbidden to avoid a robotization of driving with too sophisticated aids to the drivers. But the time of fear, of the accidents of Ratzenberger, Senna and Wendlinger seems already forgotten, as always happens in this world that lives above all of emotions but sometimes has no humanity. On Saturday November 5th 1994 the rain ruins the qualifications and the situation remains unchanged. Thus, Michael Schumacher (sixth pole position) will start in the front row next to Damon Hill for the penultimate duel of the Formula 1 World Championship. Before the Japanese Grand Prix we talked about many things and there was time to do with the sports director of Scuderia Ferrari, Jean Todt, a first report on the Maranello team, which despite a season dominated by Benetton and Williams remains a protagonist. 


"We haven’t won a race since 1990. Our goal this year was to break the losing streak. We did it with Berger’s success at Hockenheim. Then we took three pole positions and missed one because of Gerhard’s mistake at Silverstone. I am not enormously satisfied, but we have progressed. In 1995 we will have to improve again".


The field of opponents will be even more fierce but Jean Todt is not worried. 


"If we were afraid we wouldn’t be here. Formula 1 is high tech, so difficult. But we know we can compete at the highest level and we are doing everything to get back to the top". 


About the problem of unclear regulations the sports director of Ferrari says: 


"Ferrari wants and must be on the side of legality. The Federation must guarantee precise rules and enforce them. In recent months, too many rumours have circulated around alleged irregularities. We will watch to ensure that trust does not fail". 


On the state of health of Ferrari, Jean Todt is optimistic. 


"We feel strong. In a championship in which we were not even very lucky, we accumulated about 60 points. It takes a hundred to win a title. We’re at 60% of our maximum potential. So we’re working to make up the difference. As always happens from season to season, we will review the team, change, modify, adapt the working groups. We want the 1995 car to be born well with the help of Barnard and grow in Maranello". 


But what will the new single-seater look like? Todt is cautious. 


"I cannot reveal the form. But I anticipate that it will be smaller, shorter and more compact than the current one. We will try to have the best compromise between chassis, aerodynamics and engine. We will build a deeply modified engine. This is for 1995, then we will prepare various alternatives. Finally, the drivers: I repeat that we confirmed Berger and Alesi. Ferrari will have to give them a means to express themselves".

On Sunday, 6 November 1994, the Japanese Grand Prix starts under a torrential rain and, consequently, several cars spin for aquaplaning. At the start, Hideki Noda (Larousse-Ford, spin) and J.J. Lehto (Sauber-Mercedes, due to engine failure) retire without having completed even a lap. During lap 3 Ukyo Katayama ends up with his Tyrrell-Yamaha against the pit wall (contusion in the right leg for the Japanese), and Hideki Noda is the victim of a spin, from which he comes out with a wound. Johnny Herbert also left the track and was forced to retire, also during lap 3. With safety in jeopardy, the race director decides to send the Safety car on track to slow down the race and put the competitors in a row in order to free the circuit from the crashed cars in the meantime. In the lead is Michael Schumacher, followed by Damon Hill, while Jean Alesi climbs to third place, closely followed by Nigel Mansell. The race resumes on lap 9, with the start launched. But a moment later the storm is unleashed: the drops turn into buckets of water. In the pool ends Franck Lagorce, who is hit by Pierluigi Martini. Michele Alboreto, in order to avoid them, ends up in a meadow. Gerhard Berger (in P9 with Ferrari) stops with the engine sobbing, perhaps drowned by the rain that damages the electrical system of his car. Three minutes pass and Gianni Morbidelli falls like lightning against the protections, detaching two wheels of his Footwork. Five commissioners push the car when Martin Brundle crash on them with McLaren-Peugeot, also betrayed by the water on the track. A commissioner, hit in the face, jumps in the air and falls back with his broken leg. The red flag is then displayed, and the race is suspended and divided into two heats with the sum of times. Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello is back in the pits due to transmission problems, and Mark Blundell is also forced to retire due to engine failure. 


Only thirteen drivers remain in the race. When the rain abates, it is decided to run the rest of the race, about an hour from the end, adding up the times of the two heats. It starts again with minimal detachments. Michael Schumacher stretches but stops to refuel and mount new tires. Damon Hill takes the lead, but he stays there until lap 35 when he goes back to the pits. But Michae,l who has taken on little fuel to go faster, has to stop again. The German driver is back on track 14 seconds behind. When there are seven laps to go, it seems that Michael Schumacher can beat his rival, as mentioned, for the sum of times. But Damon Hill resists and on the last lap he slightly increases his margin. The British driver shakes his arms, but is not sure of the victory. The timekeepers will then see that Michael Schumacher was 6.8 seconds ahead when the red flag was shown, but Hill has a greater lead (10.1 seconds) to the chequered flag, and then gets the victory 3.3 seconds ahead of the rival. Jean Alesi, who manages to precede Nigel Mansell both physically and by the sum of times, is in third place. Eddie Irvine finishes fifth, followed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen. It took a half-flood, a day of bleak colours and with moments also highly dramatic to give a jolt to Formula 1 that seemed to be numb. So the Japanese Grand Prix, held in pouring rain, completely reshuffled the cards, referring to the last race in Australia, in Adelaide, the final challenge between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, which now becomes extremely uncertain. Damon Hill won in a breathtaking finale, preceding by just over 3 seconds Michael Schumacher. 


All after three starts, sensational outings and even a bad accident that involved five stewards, hit in full by the McLaren of Martin Brundle, one of which is taken to the hospital with a fractured right leg and a month of prognosis. A race also animated by a beautiful duel of yesteryear between Jean Alesi and Nigel Mansell, with the Ferrari driver able to withstand the attacks of the Englishman to conquer a well-deserved third place. Thrilling battle on the slippery asphalt turned into a skating rink, which confirmed the acrobatic qualities of the French driver and the ability to always do high-level shows of the moustachioed racer of Williams, as generous and reckless as when he was a rookie. The fact of the day, however, is about leadership. When everything seemed to turn in favour of Michael Schumacher, so much so that the conquest of the title by the German seemed just a formality, the determination of Damon Hill came out. With his sixth win of the season, the Williams driver reduced the standings from 5 to 1 point. This means that Michael Schumacher in Australia, to win the title, will have to get ahead of the opponent or give him at most a single margin length, so as to close in a draw and win for more first places during the season. As for Damon Hill, to win the World Championship he will be forced to earn at least 2 more points than the German. All possible solutions in a street circuit such as Adelaide, where many unforeseen events have already happened in the past. If at Jerez the success of Michael Schumacher had been propitiated by a perfect tactic implemented by the driver and Benetton, this time it happened exactly the opposite. The best strategy was that of Williams-Renault and Damon Hill, without making the slightest flaw despite the pressure on him, he knew how to take advantage. Basically the London driver, son of Graham Hill - twice World Champion - has redeemed other opaque tests that had made him think up to now a mediocre driver, found himself struggling at the top for the disappearance of teammate Ayrton Senna and for the competitiveness of his car. On the track that had seen some of the most beautiful and opposed victories of Ayrton Senna, where the Brazilian driver was commemorated with a touching ceremony, present his sister Viviana Lelli, Damon Hill dedicates his triumph to the family of the unforgettable champion. 


"My dream came true. I honestly didn’t think I could beat Michael but I did. I think we have adopted the right tactic, even if in these conditions it was a lottery. For the moment I don’t want to think about Adelaide. This year there was no track where Schumacher and Benetton were not competitive. So it will be hard, but also for them: this result gives us confidence". 


Due to the sum of times in which the race was divided (with two starts), absurd and uncertain situations have been created, with an alternation in the lead of the two drivers until the last lap. To the point that it was necessary to wait for the two contenders to materially pass in front of the finish line to understand, chronometer in hand, which of the two had won. And they didn’t know either: 


"In four at the same time from the pits shouted something to me: I heard only a P (position, ed.), then a series of discharges. Shortly after they told me that I had won".


Michael Schumacher, author of a first penalty route (he cut to the right, right on Hill’s trajectory), dark in the face and with his eyes fixed, replies: 


"I’d be happier if the championship was over here and you know how. I’ll have one more shot at Adelaide. Unfortunately this time we were wrong, the tactic punished us". 


A thesis that is not completely shared by Flavio Briatore: 


"It was the interruptions, and the two starts that changed the game, otherwise the decision to make two stops would have been winning". 


The team manager then discharges responsibility on the driver, guilty of not having pulled at most after the first stop in the pits, when he remained for too long behind Mika Hakkinen. This criticism seems to confirm the umpteenth rumour that Renault has given the engines to Benetton as long as Michael passes to Williams. Who knows. Victim of a misunderstanding was also Nigel Mansell, who attacked Jean Alesi (unnecessarily, because the Frenchman let him pass only at the last lap, when it was too late) hoping to steal the third place. Nigel did not remember that in the first part of the race he had suffered a gap of 4.5 seconds and that he would have to recover that too. So when the English moustachioed driver crossed the finish line in front of Ferrari he raised his arm to celebrate the third place and the podium. But he was fourth. Anyway the old Lion did his part, with full-blown attacks. If Alesi had made the slightest mistake, he would have passed. Instead Jean raced one of his most beautiful races, using the reserve car with the modified engine that has a lower torque and less power, useful with the wet asphalt. But even the Frenchman does not seem very satisfied: 


"I’m happy for the team. But it wasn’t my best race. I don’t want to be a Formula One jester, the one who makes a spectacle of others. Ferrari has made progress, but the engine is still hard to drive. We have to work. I’m on my fourth podium of the season and it’s not enough. I still have the history of Monza in my craw. Until I can win in Monza I will not be satisfied. I want to run to finish first and not for a placement. And in Adelaide it will still be difficult for us. So I promise nothing, except that we will at least try to make a good impression". 


Jean Alesi joins the choir of drivers who approved the decision to stop the race when the track had become too dangerous for the puddles along the circuit: 


"But I also appreciated the willingness to resume the race when it was possible. We played some in much worse conditions". 


Among the promoters of the first suspension there was also Nigel Mansell, who went to the race direction together with Flavio Briatore to ask that the second start be launched behind the Safety car, to avoid further risks. But before that, unfortunately, Michele Alboreto, Pierluigi Martini, Gianni Morbidelli, Johnny Herbert and Ukyo Katayama were already dangerously off track. Damon Hill made his first metamorphosis. Honestly, no one was willing to spend a shilling on the Englishman after he let Michael Schumacher take pole position on a track deemed favourable to Williams and, above all, when it was understood that the race would be held in the pouring rain. Instead, the 34-year-old Londoner has subverted all the predictions, surprising, perhaps, even himself. Now Damon The Demon has almost the same chances as Michael Schumacher to win the title. In Adelaide the challenge will be very open, also because the gap between the two rivals - a point in favour of the German - is difficult to manage because (unless unexpected withdrawals or accidents) one will have to stand in front of the other to win the World Championship. Having available the two most competitive cars, it is predictable that they will try to finish first and second so as not to have to ask for help from other competitors or teammates, in a problematic tactical game. The tragic disappearance of Ayrton Senna has put Damon in a position to become the first drive. And since the Spanish Grand Prix, when Schumacher came second driving a Benetton with only the fifth gear working, a series of statements have brought him to this point, facilitated by the many political-regulatory misadventures of the German rival. The fact is that, however, Damon Hill is now nominated for the title and already confirmed at Williams for 1995. 


"I have all the best conditions to hit the result. But I have no illusions, because it will be hard, very hard. Of course the success at Suzuka gave me incredible strength and confidence. It seems to me that now nothing is impossible. However one fact is certain: I will try with all my strength". 


Silent and introverted, despite a great passion for music (he plays guitar and saxophone, loves Elvis Presley and Otis Redding) Damon Hill contrasts with the explosive Michael Schumacher as the normal everyday driver could do against a robot. And now the challenge will close in Australia, on the street circuit of Adelaide.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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