Formula 1 Rivalry
Let’s admit it, if not for the F1 rivalries, F1 would become boring in no time. While the era of F1 provided its fair bit of rivalries, many times between greats, none could write-off the smaller rivalries that did build up.
By no means am I saying that Schumacher or Damon Hill were of smaller stature, however, the rivalry itself did not earn the fan interest which, say, a Senna – Prost, Niki Lauda – James Hunt, or even Senna – Schumacher (more because of Senna) rivalry earned.
Still, no one would forget the 1994 finale which many of Damon Hill’s fan believe was Schumacher robbing Damon of the championship. That crash incidentally, was also one of few incidents which earned Schumacher a reputation on the other side of goodness.
Anyway, let’s dive (if not drive) into the rivalry straight-away.
Michael Schumacher – Damon Hill: Least Expected Rivalry
In 1994, the battle at the top was between Senna and Michael Schumacher. The only grouse was that the Williams was a super powerful yet super-wicked handling car. And heart-breakingly, that took away the life of a legend. Sometimes, it hurts to wonder, why the hell did the Williams team not sort out the car before the crash? Because they figured out that the car required sorting after the crash. Dumb!
Sad as it may be, the car started performing better after Senna’s heavenly abode and the direct beneficiary of the better handling car was Damon Hill. Damon was a good driver, and all through the remaining part of the season the rivalry in the real sense was between Williams and Benetton and not really between drivers. That changed at the finale.
In the Australian Grand Prix, the final race of the season, Michael Schumacher was leading the race with Damon Hill in second place. At one corner, Schumacher crashes into the wall but veers to the track and about that time Damon Hill catches up. Damon then attempts to overtake while Schumacher unexpectedly turns into the corner and crashes into Damon.
Here’s the incident:
So, now you see the crash and also the live views of the commentators. It does feel like things were a bit desperately handled by Schumacher who was leading the championship by just one point over Damon Hill. If Schumacher was out, which he was, and Damon finished the race, then Damon would be the world champ. However, that was not to be. That collision cost Damon his suspension, and he pitted and was out of the race. Schumacher became the world champion in 1994.
The real rivalry started here between Schumacher and Damon. Hill was disappointed on the developments, and I am sure was in all cylinders to give it back to Schumacher. The British fans hated Schumacher for the incident too. How do I know? Well, in 2003, a poll to nominate the most unsporting behaviour had this incident popping up with a higher percentage of English voters.
Digressing from the topic: But guess what, Schumacher had ruffled more than one British compatriot or opponent. Here is the list of the others – Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard, Damon Hill (of course) and briefly, Lewis Hamilton. No such issues with Nigel Mansell, though. So, British racers, media and fans will have no love lost for Schumacher; to be honest, the love was a bit scarce. 😊
But Here’s Where Damon Gives Back
We did mention that Damon wanted to give it back to Schumacher, and it did happen. In fact, twice in 1995, if I am not wrong. Also, by giving back, I mean Damon wanted to win the 1995 world championship and not just mindlessly crash into Michael.
However, two incidents proved otherwise. Here is one of them which happened at Silverstone in 1995. Damon may have wanted to finish ahead of Schumacher in his home Grand Prix. But that was not to be.
Well, simply put, it was an audacious move. I think we will leave it at that and Schumacher himself wasn’t feeling too good about it but chose to just walk away from the incident.
But that was not the only incident of 1995. Here is another one in Monza when Damon crashes into Schumacher from behind. Well, this was a more significant impact with the same result.
Suggestion: The video is not in English, so turn off your audio. The video is all that I want you’ll to watch.
With the backmarker, it was a more than audacious move from Damon to overtake Schumacher. Sadly, the race ends there for both drivers, and fortunately, the backmarker still goes on unharmed. 😊 However, here, Schumacher does express his dissatisfaction.
The rivalry notwithstanding, Michael wins his second title at the end of the 1995 season. Hill has to wait till 1996 to win his first title. Whether it was worth the wait, only Hill can tell.
In my opinion, the incidents of 1994 and 1995 should be called even and closed. However, that’s not how the world works. The 1994 season will continue to be remembered because it was the title-deciding race, as much as the 1995 season will be forgotten because Schumacher still won that year and the incidents did not dent his chances to win. So, not really even-steven, I guess.
We may argue as much as we want, but the 1994 incident is not going to be forgotten anytime soon.
While we remember Schumacher for the incident, let’s remember Schumacher in our prayers too and hope he recovers from his near-fatal fall!
Video Disclaimer: All videos posted in this article are from YouTube and belongs to appropriate copyright owners on YouTube.