Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)
Driver: Damon Hill (Great Britain)
Team: Williams Renault
Car: Williams FW18
Results: 8 wins, 10 podiums, 9 poles, 5 fastest laps
In 1996, Schumacher joined Ferrari for a salary of $50 million over 2 years, a team which had last won the Drivers’ Championship with Jody Scheckter in 1979 and which had not won the Constructors’ Cup since 1983 with drivers René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay at the wheel. He left Benetton a year before his contract with them expired; he later cited the team’s damaging actions in 1994 as his reason for opting out of his deal.A year later, ex-Benetton employees Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn, who had been Technical Director at Benetton since 1991,and who was one of the key members behind Schumacher’s title successes with the team in 1994 and 1995, decided to join Schumacher at Ferrari. This increased Schumacher’s motivation to build a more experienced and potentially championship-winning team around him.
Damon Hill took his World Championship two years after being pipped by a point by Michael Schumacher, making him the only son of a World Champion to win the title himself. Hill who had finished runner-up for the past couple of seasons was not seriously threatened this year, though near the end, teammate and newcomer Jacques Villeneuve (another son of a great F1 driver) mounted a title challenge going into the final race of the season. Williams easily locked up the constructors title as well, as there was no other team strong enough to post a consistent challenge throughout the schedule. This was also the beginning of the end of Williams’ 1990s dominance, as it was announced that Hill and designer Adrian Newey would depart at the conclusion of the season, with engine manufacturer Renault also leaving after 1997.
Despite numerous reliability problems, Ferrari had gradually developed into a front-running team by the end of the season with Schumacher winning three races, more than the team’s total tally for the period from 1991 to 1995. Defending champion Benetton began their decline towards the middle of the grid, having lost key personnel due to Schumacher’s departure, and failed to win a race.