I think we can all admit the 2016 Formula One season was a bit weak. You weren’t reading The F1 Newsletter religiously, the cars were less aggressive, and Mercedes dominated almost every race. Thankfully, you now read the newsletter twice over, and we have seen the resurgence of Ferrari. Prior to this season, however, Ferrari was in a bit of a rough patch. This week’s ‘Moment in History’ takes you back to 1996 when Ferrari was in a similar funk. A Ferrari driver won the Drivers’ World Championship in 1979, but the team went on to win only two Grand Prix between 1980 and 1995. The 1996 Spanish Grand Prix brought an end to all that.
So what happened to Ferrari during the 1995-1996 off season? Micheal Schumacher happened. Schumacher had entered the sport in 1991 and had already won the Drivers’ World Championship in both 1994 and 1995 before joining Ferrari for the 1996 season. Even with the world’s best driver, Ferrari faced an uphill battle. The Adrian Newey designed, Renault powered Williams FW18 was clearly the best car in the field and Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve were winning the majority of races. That is until the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hill and Villeneuve qualified one two for the race, but by the end of the formation lap it was pouring rain. It was anyone’s race. Schumacher had qualified third for the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix but a terrible, Lewis Hamilton-like start saw him drop down to 10th place before the second corner. That is when the “Regenmeister” started to work his magic. Lap after lap Schumacher passed competitors. By lap 12 Schumacher had overtaken Villeneuve for the lead and was pulling away at a pace of four seconds per lap.
It was Schumacher’s first win with Ferrari, and while Damien Hill went on to win the World Championship, the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix was the start of something special for Schumacher and Ferrari. The dynamic duo went on to win five World Championships together. Let’s hope we see similar magic out of young Max Verstappen this weekend. Or should I say the new Regenmeester?