New rivalry born as Schumacher brushes off Hill's challenge
Williams versus Benetton. Damon Hill against Michael Schumacher. The top qualifier vying with the world's best racer.
There was action aplenty, but it was all over with a race to spare as the German claimed his second straight world title.
Michael Schumacher was never expected to win the 1994 world title. But then Ayrton Senna died and he sneaked it from Damon Hill. For 1995, though, it looked as though it would be the Englishman who had the last laugh. Staying on at Williams, he had the best chassis and the top engine: Renault's V10.
Schumacher would also be armed with a Renault. Equal on horsepower after fighting with a deficit in 1994, the German's Benetton looked a brute on the handling front. Indeed, Schumacher's team-mate Johnny Herbert would attest to the car's twitchiness. And, like many Benetton number twos before him, he couldn't tame it.
On pole in the Brazilian opener, Hill was leading from Schumacher when his suspension collapsed, allowing the German to win from Hill's team-mate David Coulthard. But then the first pair were ejected for using fuel that was deemed illegal. They were later reinstated.
Argentina was next, hosting a grand prix for the first time in 14 years and Hill dominated from Jean Alesi's Ferrari and an off-form Schumacher. Alesi was fortunate, indeed, as he'd lost control at the start and brought out the red flags by triggering a pile-up. Luckily for Alesi, it was his turn to have the spare Ferrari, so it was set-up for him and not for team-mate Gerhard Berger's lankier frame.
The next race in Europe was a poignant return to Imola just a year after the meeting claimed the lives of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. This time, all went well, and Hill won from the Ferraris, Alesi beating Berger.
It all came right for Benetton in Spain, with Schumacher heading Herbert home. Indeed, Schumacher started on pole and led every lap. Hill should have been second, but his hydraulics failed on the last lap, dropping him to fourth. A similar failure eliminated Coulthard from third.
Monaco used to be Senna's property. Nowadays, one looks to Schumacher for victory around the streets. But this was challenged when Hill took pole convincingly. In the race, though, Benetton's one-stop tactics helped Schumacher beat the twice-stopping Hill by 35 seconds.
In Canada, Schumacher again opted for one stop, but he ducked in for an unscheduled one because of gearchange problems and Alesi nipped through for his first grand prix win after 91 attempts to trigger a wave of pitlane emotion, especially for his former manager Eddie Jordan whose cars came home second and third, Rubens Barrichello ahead of Eddie Irvine.
Schumacher beat Hill to win in France, taking control with his pitstop strategy rather than with a piece of overtaking on the track. Hill was caught in backmarkers when Schumacher first pitted and then couldn't call into his own pits as his team-mate was already there. Coulthard just resisted Martin Brundle's Ligier for third.
Historians will recall 1995 as the year in which Hill and Schumacher collided a lot. The first of the famous clashes came at Silverstone as Hill fought to pass Schumacher for the lead after his second pitstop. The move came at Priory and was hugely optimistic and took both out. Coulthard thus looked set for his first win, but was called in for a 10-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane and Herbert came through to win from Alesi.
Germany follows Britain on the calendar and thus Hill was greeted angrily by the hordes who packed Hockenheim. Starting from pole, he opened a cracking lead on the first lap and promptly lost control and crashed starting the second lap. Schumacher took over and was able to win as he pleased from Coulthard to open up a 21-point lead.
Hill made amends in Hungary with the perfect performance: pole, fastest lap and victory, backed up by Coulthard in second and Schumacher in retirement after a late-race fuel pump failure when second.
Coulthard dominated in Belgium, but his gearbox failed and through came Hill and Schumacher (up from 16th on the grid...) for a fierce battle. There was slight contact as the German (on slicks) did his utmost to block Hill (on new wets) both to stay in the lead and to negate the new tyres' advantage. And it worked, although Schumacher was given a one-race ban suspended for four races.
In Italy, Coulthard again made the early running before retiring, and Schumacher and Hill collided again. This time the fault was Hill's as he clouted the rear of the Benetton as they passed a tail-ender while chasing Berger. But he too was to retire. Alesi took over, yet there was to be no home win for Ferrari, as he too parked up. Through it all came Herbert to win from Mika Hakkinen's McLaren and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Sauber.
Coulthard finally got his reward in Portugal, with Schumacher demoting Hill to third in the dying laps. Ukyo Katayama caused the race to be restarted when he barrel-rolled his Tyrrell at the start.
The Grand Prix of Europe, at the Nurburgring, was a belter. Run in damp conditions, Alesi amazed everyone by not only starting on slicks but by working his way through into the lead. Some tough racing ensued with Hill clipping his car and then Hill and Schumacher touching. Hill crashed out and this left Schumacher to chase and catch Alesi with three laps to run. His victory all but wrapped up the title.
Not one but two Japanese races followed, with the Pacific Grand Prix at the TI Circuit first. This was won by Schumacher for his second world title in a row. Coulthard led the first 50 laps, but Schumacher's three-stop strategy to the Scotsman's two was the key. That and his amazing speed. Hill was a distant third. Schumacher rubbed it in at Suzuka, taking his ninth win of the year, enough to give Benetton its first constructors' crown. Hill and Coulthard both spun off, and this helped Hakkinen (back after a race away to have an appendectomy) to second ahead of Herbert.
And so to Adelaide for the final time. Coulthard wanted to end his last race for Williams with victory, but he left them aghast when he pitted (in the lead) and crashed into the pitlane entrance. Hill then won as he pleased, while Schumacher was chopped by Alesi and retired as a result. Frentzen moved into second and retired. Then Herbert did likewise. In fact, almost all of the frontrunners dropped out, and Hill won by two laps from Olivier Panis's Ligier and Gianni Morbidelli's Arrows.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books