The 2017 Formula One season is upon us! I do not know how you feel, but I am more excited for the boys to get back out on track than I was for my first colonoscopy. The first race of the season takes place in Melbourne, Australia on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. The Australian Grand Prix has taken place in Melbourne for the past twenty seasons, but prior to that it was held at the Adelaide Street Circuit in Adelaide, South Australia. This edition of “Moment in History” takes you back to Adelaide in 1994 when the Australian Grand Prix was the final race in the World Championship.
Similar to the 2016 season, the 1994 Driver’s World Championship was going to be decided in the final race. It was extremely tight at the top of the standings with Benetton driver Michael Schumacher leading with 92 points and Williams driver Damon Hill nipping at Schumacher’s heels with 91 points. If either driver won the race it would mean that he also won the World Championship.
The beginning of the race was rather pedestrian. Despite qualifying second and third, Schumacher and Hill quickly jumped Nigel Mansell to secure the top two places. Schumacher grabbed the top spot and remained there until lap 36. That is when things got interesting. Hill was beginning to catch Schumacher, and it was rather obvious that he was going to overtake Schumacher for first place. The attack came in the sixth corner of lap 36. As Hill cut to the inside, rather than letting the faster Hill pass him, Schumacher turned sharply into the corner eliminating any space and colliding with Hill in the process. Schumacher’s car was disabled immediately and he was eliminated from the race. Hill, on the other hand, attempted to continue and was able to finish the lap before pitting for quick repairs. Those repairs never happened, however, as the car’s front left suspension wishbone was critically damaged. Hill was forced to retire, and as neither driver scored any additional points, Schumacher took home the title.
No big deal, right? Not so fast my friend. While the collision between Hill and Schumacher may seem like a standard racing incident, many Formula One insiders claimed Schumacher caused the accident on
purpose. After the race, both Hill and Schumacher tried to avoid the topic with Schumacher insisting the crash was a racing incident. Years later, however, Hill changed his tune and accused Schumacher of deliberately driving into him. We may never know Schumacher’s intentions for sure, but the deliberate crash tactic remains a controversial topic among Formula One fanatics to this day.