Which ‘blatantly illegal car’ won a championship?

Michael Schumacher, Benetton-Ford, 1994I’ve long enjoyed Nigel Roebuck’s writings on Formula 1 and I’ll miss my weekly dose of the ‘Fifth Column’ and ‘Ask Nigel’ when he departs Autosport for Motor Sport next year.

His final ‘Ask Nigels’ have been especially entertaining but this startling claim really caught my eye:

Anyone in the paddock, for example, will tell you that one year – no, I’m not saying which – the world championship was won by a blatantly illegal car.

So… which year, and which car?

A couple of contenders spring to mind. Roebuck has often insinuating that the 1981 Brabham that powered Nelson Piquet to the world championship ran underweight on occasions – notably at Monaco, where Piquet pipped Roebuck’s favourite Gilles Villeneuve to pole position.

Bitter debates have also raged over the legality of the 1994 Benetton-Ford in which Michael Schumacher won the drivers’ championship. It was found to have a hidden traction control system, and the team was also investigated for making illegal modifications to their refuelling systems.

Prior to the return of traction control in 2001 Max Mosley claimed that at least one team had been illegally using such a system, but did not state which.

Could any of these be Roebuck’s ‘blatantly illegal car’? Or is it something else?

More about traction control

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30 comments on Which ‘blatantly illegal car’ won a championship?

  1. Daniel PT said on 26th December 2007, 12:26

    I really bet on Benetton-Ford for that. That car was really blatantly illegal. As for Piquet and Brabham, that was only rumours. As for another car, well, if Mosley said that before 2001 at least one team had been illegally using traction control, then it must have been Ferrari. Because, instead of punishing the team, he made traction control legal, and above all, he didn’t mentioned the name of the team. If it was, for instance, Mclaren, they would be fined and banned for a couple of years.

  2. Robert McKay said on 26th December 2007, 12:41

    Question is, if it was so widely known to be illegal, WHY was it allowed to win the championship?

  3. 2007 when Ferrari won with an illegal floor in Australia.

  4. Number 38 said on 26th December 2007, 15:07

    “Blatantly illegal”? If it were that obvious why didn’t we the people make an issue of it? We whine about Ferrari’s ‘flexible floor’. We whine about Renault’s ‘mass dampers’……where were the whiners THEN? “Blatantly illegal”, eh?

  5. 1999, when Ferrari’s barge board caused them to be disqualified in Malaysia, and they were only re-instated when the FIA retrospectively re-wrote the rules on barge board measurement, much to everyone else’s annoyance? That is a matter of record, and it is strange that Nigel Roebuck didn’t state it specifically.

  6. AmericanTifosi said on 26th December 2007, 16:29

    I don’t think it’s the ’94 Benneton. I beleve Pat Symonds (check out the August issue of F1 Racing pg. 88) The FIA is such a messed up govorning body, the term “blatently illegal” is a hard term to define.

  7. Steven Roy said on 26th December 2007, 16:39

    It has to be the 1994 Benetton. At the time there were regular stories of the car behaving unusually in relation to its specification. For example at one race it was noted that Schumacher’s Ford V8 powered car managed to overtake the two Renault powered Williams cars from a standing start. Something that should have been impossible.

    There is also the fact that one Benetton was clearly more equal than the other and the fact that only a few people close to Schumacher were allowe to see his telemetry. I remember Johnny Herbert’s reaction on being drafted into the team when he couldn’t get within a second of Schumacher. For me no-one ever was a second faster than Johnny Herbert. My belief has always been that some senior Benetton managers were kept in the dark or elese why would they have changed drivers in the second car. Schumacher blowing away one driver over the course of the season is one thing but to draft in Herbert and have him roundly beaten just made it obvious that the whole thing was a sham.

  8. Correct me if i’m wrong, but as a comment on “Prior to the return of traction control in 2001″; wasn’t it widely known that reason McLaren were so fast of the line in 99 was because they had some sort of traction control?

  9. I know Senna said about the benetton of 94…it’s acceleration out of corners wasn’t human…even schumi isn’t that good.
    I am pretty sure the 94Benetton wasn’t legal!

  10. Vertigo said on 26th December 2007, 19:23

    Why have we turned to bold?
    If the traction control in the Benetton was “hidden” then it wasn’t a blatant cheat was it?
    I reckon it’s a team who were exploiting a loophole unfairly. I don’t know who though – you can all work that out for yourselves.

  11. Daniel said on 26th December 2007, 19:23

    I don’t remember the reasons now, but Benetton was disqualified twice that season, and also received a race ban or so… was that for the same motives mentioned above? And, if it was, didn’t they receive a fair punishment? And, having receiving it, were they still be illegal?

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th December 2007, 21:17

    Schumacher was disqualified from the British Grand Prix for overtaking Damon Hill (more than once) on the parade lap. He was then excluded from two races for failing to stop when black-flagged in the British race.

    Before he served that ban (at the Italian and Portuguese rounds) he was disqualified from the Belgian Grand Prix (in which he had finished first) for excessive plank wear.

    More on the 1994 season here: 1994 season history

  13. Given that it is a fact that McLaren used traction control and a fully automatic gearbox in 1995, and have been found to have been cheating this year, I agree with nuzzaci that it’s more than likely that Roebuck was referring to McLaren’s 1998 or 1999 title.

  14. Steven Roy said on 27th December 2007, 19:20

    I love the logic of that argument. Because of what it is accused of doing in 1995 and 2007 its 1998 and 1999 cars must be illegal. I just love Schumacher/Ferrari fans. Reality does not affect their world.

  15. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th December 2007, 23:29

    Rohan have you got any further information on the ’95 McLaren or what was supposed to be wrong with the ’98 or ’99 cars?

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