Mosley: Schumacher would have lost ’94 title under modern rules

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Nurburgring, 2007 | Ferrari MediaJames Allen claims in his new biography of Michael Schumacher that FIA president Max Mosley believes Schumacher would have been stripped of his 1994 world championship under the current F1 rules.

Here’s what the book has to say:

According to Mosley, mitigating circumstances were missing in the case of Schumacher’s deliberate collisions with opponents later in his career. Schumacher got away with driving Damon Hill off the road in 1994, but if today’s systems had been in place then, Hill would have been awarded the championship.

But what were the ‘mitigating circumstances’? And what changes to the rules would prevent the same thing happening today?

Senna and Prost

Whenever he says something controversial Max Mosley has a complicated explanation. This one goes back to the collisions between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at Suzuka in 1989 and 1990.

In 1989, Prost deliberately collided with Senna to take the Brazilian out and win the championship. Senna was able to continue in the race but was disqualified for missing part of the course. Senna believed FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre sided with Prost.

In 1990 the championship situation was reversed and Senna won the title when he deliberately took Prost out at the first corner of the race at 120mph.

Twelve months later, by which time Mosley had usurped Balestre as FIA president, Senna admitted he crashed into Prost deliberately. Mosley gives two reasons why he did not punish Senna: Mosley claims he was not politically strong enough, and states he had defended the race director of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, John Corsmidt, when Balestre attacked Corsmidt over the second collision.

The Schumacher collisions

If Mosley did want to punish drivers who won world championships by crashing into their rivals, then why did he not punish Schumacher for colliding with Damon Hill in 1994? He cites ‘mitigating circumstances’ but it’s not clear what they are.

When Schumacher tried the same thing on Villeneuve in 1997 he was punished, but there was another crucial difference – he failed to take Villeneuve out and lost the championship anyway. (See video of the Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Hill and Villeneuve incidents.)

Many commentators (myself included) saw Schumacher’s punishment of disqualification from the 1997 championship as a meaningless slap on the wrist – why would he care about losing second place? But that changes if we believe Mosley would have applied the same punishment had Schumacher successfully taken Villeneuve out – i.e. Mosley would have stripped the world champion of his title.

Why no appeal in ’94?

Perhaps by ‘mitigating circumstances’ Mosley means the lack of an appeal from the Williams team after the 1994 collision. Following the controversy at Monaco last year, Williams stalwart Patrick Head shed some light on why they didn’t appeal at the time:

As far as Australia 1994 is concerned, Monaco 2006 doesn’t really make any difference. And that’s because, that day in Adelaide, we at Williams were already 100% certain that Michael was guilty of foul play. It was so blatant.

He was about to drive his stricken Benetton up the slip-road when he spotted Damon’s Williams about to pass him and abruptly veered across the track to prevent that happening.

We seriously considered lodging a formal protest there and then, on the grounds that it had been so blatant, but decided against it simply because of what had happened earlier in the year.

Because 1994 was the terrible year it was – in other words, because Ayrton Senna had been killed in one of our cars at Imola – we didn’t really think it would have been right for Damon to win the world championship that year, especially if he’d done so in court, so we didn’t protest.

But had it been any other year – or had Ayrton not been killed in one of our cars – then most certainly we’d have lodged a formal protest on the very grounds on which Michael was found guilty at Monaco in ’06.

This year’s championship is getting increasingly tense and controversial. It would be a shame to see it end in an acrimonious and cynical take-out – but if it did, should the FIA step in to award the title to the wronged driver?

I think they should. For the credibility of F1, I think they would have to.

Photo: Ferrari Media

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22 comments on Mosley: Schumacher would have lost ’94 title under modern rules

  1. Absolutely. They’d have to. Stretching my memory a little this early in the morning but according to one of the Ecclestone biographies I think he leaned on Williams not to appeal.

  2. “He was about to drive his stricken Benetton up the slip-road when he spotted Damon’s Williams about to pass him and abruptly veered across the track to prevent that happening.”

    I think Patrick needs to watch the incident again. Michael went back to the racing line and stayed there until the contact. The video also shows that Michael turned into the corner before Damon even attempted a move (he was directly behind at the time let alone alongside), and that Schumacher was going for the apex.

    This is something that is missing from the Senna-Prost incident at Japan in ’89, where Alain turned in after Senna had clearly position his car and made his intention to overtake known, and Prost was aiming his car at a point several meters before the apex.

    It’s possible, perhaps even probable that Michael was continuing in the hope that Damon would lunge at him and perhaps damage his car, but the video angles we have don’t back up that Schumacher was using his car as a weapon to take Damon out. One can even see Schumacher turning the wheel left the instant before impact, not something you’d do if you were trying to ram someone.

  3. firstly, Max says:

    “mitigating circumstances were MISSING”

    now that’s an odd thing to say. because mitigating circumstances are affirmative defenses. assuming the guy has been quoted correctly, i find that a peculiar thing for a qualified barrister to say.

    secondly, this is an interesting line:

    “but if today’s SYSTEMS had been in place”

    notice that there’s no mention of the word ‘rules’ here. to assume Max means “today’s rules”, is a massive supposition.

    he could be referring to other factors including – the GPS systems on each car, driver input telemetry, or the use of a regular steward.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2007, 10:01

    Mosley said there weren’t any mitigating circumstances in Schumacher’s collisions later in his career, which I took to mean that there were mitigating circumstances in the ’94 collision. The systems thing is interesting and of course that’s what they used to justify the punishment at Monaco last year.

  5. Of course, if Michael had not made the mistake of falling off the track in the first place (something I believe he would have avoided with the level of driving knowledge he had at the end of his career), then the possibility of crashing into Damon would probably not have arisen and there would have been nothing for the stewards to discuss. So Max is right in a sense – but I think it would have been prevented by Michael’s systems rather than the FIA’s.

    And yes, if someone wins the championship through cheating or their own error, then the FIA should step in and give the championship to the driver who actually earned it.

  6. Nathan Jones said on 22nd August 2007, 12:50

    if anything like that happens this year it will be a massive anti-climax

  7. If it were to happen this season, I think the results would vary somewhat depending on who the offending or injured party is. If the evil Alonso was to cynically take out the plucky young brit Hamilton, then yes: the FIA would step in for sure.

    If, however, the rapidly maturing Hamilton were to show some real courageous cut and thrust, and thwart the advances of Massa, whose team have been complaining groundlessly all season, in the sternest possible way then the FIA would do nothing and let the coronation commence.

    not that I’m cynical

  8. Vertigo said on 22nd August 2007, 17:57

    Alianora La Canta – despite what Michael did in Adelaide, he was the better driver in ’94 and he did earn the title. Kris is right to be cynical – the FIA are prejudiced against Alonso. Not that that’s a bad thing, Alonso doesn’t deserve three titles in a row, he is too whiney.

  9. Dan M said on 22nd August 2007, 18:15

    The fact that there is a possibility that this could happen again just shows how incompetent that FiA is. All drivers should understand (through previous examples) that any incident that even looks intentional should be penalized.

    If the incident is between team mates, then its not the FiA’s problem its Ron’s. The FiA just makes things worse by punishing the wrong drivers.

  10. Michael did in Adelaide, he was the better driver in ‘94 and he did earn the title {Vertigo – 2 posts ago}

    I don’t think Michael deserved the championship on the basis of the error and of other mistakes he made (such as the formation-lap passing at Silverstone), but I concede that he was faster than Damon for pretty much the entire season. However, speed without compliance with the rules does not a championship make. Though whether the FIA judged Michael and Benneton too harshly when they did go to court is a matter for another time…

  11. Simon Stiel said on 22nd August 2007, 21:21

    Pardon me but where was Patrick Head quoted from?

    Thank you.

  12. Journeyer said on 22nd August 2007, 23:22

    Kris is right to be cynical – the FIA are prejudiced against Alonso. Not that that’s a bad thing, Alonso doesn’t deserve three titles in a row, he is too whiney.

    Vertigo, I’m very disappointed with this thought. I mean, I hate Alonso probably as much as you. But the fact is, he’s quick enough, and he’s good enough to it, and I respect him for that, if not for his attitude.

    But IS the FIA prejudiced? That, my friends, is the $25-million question.

  13. Simon Stiel, I would guess the quote is from the July 2006 edition of F1 Racing, as I remember reading Patrick Head say something very similar to that in there.

  14. Vertigo said on 23rd August 2007, 13:12

    OK, maybe I shouldn’t have been so petty about Alonso, but the fact is, in 2005 Raikkonen was the better driver and was let down by his McLaren, and in 2006 Schumacher would have won the title, had his engine not failed in Japan.
    About the FIA – hopefully, everything will get better when Max Moseley steps down. Right now, they are against Alonso, and only become fair when the media turn on them, which won’t happen this year as Alonso is impeding Hamilton, who is the darling of the press.

  15. Kntent said on 23rd August 2007, 14:58

    Schumacher’s engine failure in Japan made ZERO difference to the title result. MS was only in with a chance because Alonso lost a certain 10 pint win in Hungary with a wheel nut break and another in Monza with an engine failure. Alonso beat Schumacher in a slower Renault fair and square in 2006. That is the main reason the MS-fanatics want to see him fail this season.

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