Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)
Driver: Michael Schumacher (Germany)
Team: Benetton Ford
Car: Benetton B194
Results: 8 wins, 10 podiums, 6 poles, 8 fastest laps
The big news in the paddock after the 1993 season was the retirement of defending World Champion Alain Prost after winning his fourth title, and his replacement at Williams by long-term rival Ayrton Senna. It was commonly thought that Senna’s move to Williams was a factor behind Prost’s retirement.
In order to combat the spiralling costs of running a Formula One team, and to counteract criticism that over-reliance on technology was reducing the drivers to a secondary role, sweeping rule changes were introduced for 1994, most notably banning of all electronic “driver aids” such as active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control.
The season is remembered as one of the most tragic and controversial seasons in the 1990s, if not in the sport’s history. 1994 was one of the closest championships in history as Michael Schumacher won the Drivers’ title by a single point from Damon Hill after the two controversially collided at the final round in Adelaide. British constructor Williams-Renault won the Constructors’ Championship. However, the 1994 season will also be remembered for the deaths of three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna and the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix.
On 1 May, F1 lost arguably its best driver ever. Senna took pole at Imola after Roland Ratzenberger got killed in qualifying. At the start of the race, Lehto’s Benetton B194 stalled and was hit by Pedro Lamy’s Lotus. Debris from the crash, including Lamy’s right front tyre, flew into the grandstand and injured four spectators and a policeman. Lamy was unhurt but Lehto received a light arm injury. The Safety Car was called out. The race restarted at the end of lap 5. And Senna tried immediately to pull away from Schumacher. At the start of the 7th lap, Senna lost control, for reasons that are still the subject of controversy, and his car went straight on at Tamburello into an unprotected concrete wall at 131 mph (210 km/h). The suspension of the Williams broke on impact, flying backwards and hitting Senna on the head, piercing his helmet and fracturing his skull. The car slid to a halt on the circuit, with Senna motionless. From the helicopter pictures, a slight movement of Senna’s head gave a hint of hope. Doctor Sid Watkins was on the scene in less than two minutes. Senna was airlifted to hospital but nothing could be done and Senna was pronounced dead later that evening. After the race, a poignant detail was revealed when an Austrian flag was found in Senna’s car; he had planned to dedicate the win to Ratzenberger had he won the race. Schumacher went on to win his 3rd race in a row.
After Senna’s death Damon Hill found himself team leader. Hill came back into contention for the title after winning the British Grand Prix, a race which his father had never won. Schumacher was disqualified from that race and banned for two further races for overtaking Hill during the formation lap and ignoring the subsequent black flag. Four more victories for Hill, three of which were in races where Schumacher was excluded or disqualified, took the title battle to the final event at Adelaide, with Schumacher’s 1 point lead over Hill.
Neither Hill nor Schumacher finished the season-closing Australian Grand Prix, after a controversial collision which gave the title to Schumacher. Schumacher ran off the track hitting the wall with the right-hand side of his Benetton while leading. Coming into the sixth corner Hill moved to pass the Benetton and the two collided, breaking the Williams’ front left suspension wishbone, and forcing both drivers’ retirement from the race. BBC Formula One commentator Murray Walker, a great fan and friend of Hill, has often maintained that Schumacher did not cause the crash intentionally. WilliamsF1 co-owner Patrick Head feels differently; in 2006 he said that at the time of the incident “Williams were already 100% certain that Michael was guilty of foul play”, but did not protest Schumacher’s title because the team was still dealing with the death of Ayrton Senna. In 2007, Hill explicitly accused Schumacher of causing the collision deliberately. Williams took the constructors’ title.