The battle for the 1994 championship came alive at Jerez as Michael Schumacher returned to take on Damon Hill.
But a faulty refuelling rig put paid to hopes of a showdown between in the two in Spain. Schumacher took his eighth win of the season – and regained the initiative in the title fight.
Schumacher’s return from a two-race suspension to lead the Benetton team was just the first of many changes in the driver line-up since the previous round in Portugal three weeks earlier.
Nigel Mansell had climbed from the cockpit of his Newman-Haas Lola at Laguna Seca in California the previous weekend and left IndyCar racing for good. He took over from David Coulthard at Williams, and though he was still feeling the after-effects of the abrupt shift in time zones he was eager to begin what amounted to a three-race audition for a full-time return in 1995.
Administrators had taken over Lotus after the Italian Grand Prix, and in an attempt to raise funds Johnny Herbert’s contract had been sold to Ligier. He therefore swapped places with Eric Bernard. This meant Lotus had a complete change of driver line-up, Alessandro Zanardi having returned in place of Philippe Adams.
Lotus weren’t the only team trying to make ends meet. Larrousse continued to operate a revolving door for their second car, and Hideki Noda became the fourth occupant of the seat alongside Erik Comas. At Simtek Jean-Marc Gounon was replaced by Domenico Schiattarella.
It wasn’t just the line-up of drivers which had been in flux since the season began. The 14th round of the championship was supposed to take place in Argentina, but problems getting the venue ready meant it was scrubbed from the calendar four months before it was due to take place.
A replacement was arranged at Jerez, and the Spain’s second round of the championship was given the title of European Grand Prix which Donington Park had used the previous year.
The twisty circuit in the south of the country had last been used for a grand prix in 1990. Since then its twisty infield had been eased, creating a longer run-up to the Curva Dry Sack hairpin. However the sweeping right-handers behind the pits, where Martin Donnelly had crashed so fearfully during practice for its last grand prix, had been slowed by a chicane.
With their championship leader back at the helm, Benetton were rejuvenated. The twisty circuit suited the B194 chassis, and after minor damage to his car was repaired overnight Schumacher took his fifth pole position of the year.
Hill went off the track in his efforts to beat the Benetton, and by doing so spread gravel over the surface which hindered Mansell’s progress. The returning driver shared the second row with Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was in Sauber’s best starting position of their short existence.
The highest Ferrari belonged to Gerhard Berger, sixth on the grid at a venue where their straight-line performance counted for little. Team mate Jean Alesi spun during his first qualifying attempt on Saturday, which left him ten places further back, anticipating a difficult race at a circuit where overtaking would be difficult.
1994 European Grand Prix grid
|Row 1||1. Michael Schumacher 1’22.762
|2. Damon Hill 1’22.892
|Row 2||3. Nigel Mansell 1’23.392
|4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1’23.431
|Row 3||5. Rubens Barrichello 1’23.455
|6. Gerhard Berger 1’23.677
|Row 4||7. Johnny Herbert 1’24.040
|8. Gianni Morbidelli 1’24.079
|Row 5||9. Mika Hakkinen 1’24.122
|10. Eddie Irvine 1’24.157
|Row 6||11. Olivier Panis 1’24.432
|12. Jos Verstappen 1’24.643
|Row 7||13. Ukyo Katayama 1’24.738
|14. Mark Blundell 1’24.770
|Row 8||15. Martin Brundle 1’25.110
|16. Jean Alesi 1’25.182
|Row 9||17. Pierluigi Martini 1’25.294
|18. Andrea de Cesaris 1’25.407
|Row 10||19. Christian Fittipaldi 1’25.427
|20. Michele Alboreto 1’25.511
|Row 11||21. Alessandro Zanardi 1’25.557
|22. Eric Bernard 1’25.595
|Row 12||23. Erik Comas 1’26.272
|24. Hideki Noda 1’27.168
|Row 13||25. David Brabham 1’27.201
|26. Domenico Schiattarella 1’27.976
Did not qualify:
Bertrand Gachot, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’29.488
Paul Belmondo, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’30.234
1994 European Grand Prix
The cars were held on red for a long time. Moments before the lights changed, Schumacher’s clutch started to drag, and just as he made to come off it the race started and Hill beat him to turn one.
Schumacher, who was planning to pit three times, hounded his championship rival during the opening laps. No overtaking opportunity presented itself, but Schumacher could afford to relax in the knowledge that Williams strategy had consistently been found wanting compared to Benetton’s.
That may have proved the case on this occasion even without Hill’s problem. Schumacher made his first pit stop on lap 15 and jumped ahead of the Williams when Hill pitted two laps later. And despite Hill planning to pit twice his second stint was no longer than Schumacher’s – both were back in after 18 laps.
This was because a fault in Hill’s fuel rig led Williams to the incorrect conclusion that they had put too little fuel at his first stop. His second pit stop was therefore both too early and saw him take on to much fuel.
While Hill lugged around the best part of 100kg of fuel, Schumacher’s light Benetton disappeared up the road. Hill, who had begun the race looking like he would surpass Schumacher in the championship standings, had to settle for second.
It was a taxing race for both sides of the Williams garage. Mansell lit up his rear tyres at the start and fell to sixth behind Frentzen, Barrichello and Berger.
Mansell swiftly re-passed the Ferrari and on lap six took advantage of the extended run to Curva Dry Sack to take fourth place off Barrichello. But he lost the position when he was held up by Noda on lap 11.
The Larrousse driver had stalled at the start and Mansell almost ran into him at turn eight as the leaders came past the hapless rookie. Barrichello spied an opportunity and pounced, brilliantly passing the Williams around the outside.
Making mattes worse for Mansell, he had damaged part of his front wing in contact with the Larrousse. He had the wing replaced at a later pit stop, but was then brought back in when Williams noticed a bolt was loose. As with Coulthard’s rear wing problem at Spa, Williams’ caution was understandable in the light of Imola.
Mansell’s race didn’t last much longer after he returned to the track, spinning out at turn seven on lap 48. Coulthard, commentating on the race for the BBC, resisted the urge to stick the boot in, suggesting Mansell had been caught out by the lower ride height of an F1 car compared to and IndyCar when he ran wide at the exit of the turn.
At the front of the field Schumacher was able to pace himself. He could afford to back off when he came across the McLaren of Mika Hakkinen, who was reluctant to be lapped.
Hakkinen took the final place on the podium at the expense of Eddie Irvine, who suspected the stewards had been looking the other way when the McLaren made a surprisingly fast departure from the pit lane. The enforcement of the speed limit introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix was not yet being done automatically.
Berger took fifth for Ferrari ahead of Frentzen, whose one-stop strategy had seen him hold up a queue of cars at the beginning of the race. Johnny Herbert brought his new Ligier home in eighth ahead of his team mate – though it would prove to be a one-off appearance for Herbert before another change of team.
1994 European Grand Prix result
|Pos.||#||Driver||Team||Laps||Time / gap / reason|
|1||5||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Ford||69||1hr 40’26.689|
|5||28||Gerhard Berger||Ferrari||68||1 lap|
|6||30||Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Sauber-Mercedes||68||1 lap|
|7||3||Ukyo Katayama||Tyrrell-Yamaha||68||1 lap|
|8||25||Johnny Herbert||Ligier-Renault||68||1 lap|
|9||26||Olivier Panis||Ligier-Renault||68||1 lap|
|10||27||Jean Alesi||Ferrari||68||1 lap|
|11||10||Gianni Morbidelli||Footwork-Ford||68||1 lap|
|13||4||Mark Blundell||Tyrrell-Yamaha||68||1 lap|
|14||24||Michele Alboreto||Minardi-Ford||67||2 laps|
|15||23||Pierluigi Martini||Minardi-Ford||67||2 laps|
|16||12||Alessandro Zanardi||Lotus-Mugen-Honda||67||2 laps|
|17||9||Christian Fittipaldi||Footwork-Ford||66||3 laps|
|18||11||Eric Bernard||Lotus-Mugen-Honda||66||3 laps|
|19||32||Domenico Schiattarella||Simtek-Ford||64||5 laps|
|29||Andrea de Cesaris||Sauber-Mercedes||37||Throttle|
1994 Drivers’ championship points
Schumacher’s victory increased his championship lead to five points. But his margin over Hill at the end of the race flattered the Benetton’s performance compared to the ever-improving Williams.
The final races of the season would illustrate that as the 1994 drivers’ championship built to a thrilling conclusion.
|Andrea de Cesaris||0||0||0||3||3||3||4||4||4||4||4||4||4||4|
|J J Lehto||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1|
1994 Constructors’ championship points
Benetton regained the initiative in the constructors’ championship with their eighth win of the season.
But each of their wins and all bar nine of their points had been scored by Schumacher, and despite Mansell’s faltering comeback for Williams there was a clear case for them to address the weakness in their squad. Jos Verstappen had been almost two seconds off Schumacher’s pace in qualifying and spun off early in the race.
Grand Prix flashback
- Villeneuve disqualification sets up championship showdown with Schumacher
- Villeneuve takes final win after Schumacher brothers collide
- Schumacher’s yellow flag penalty helps Villeneuve slash his points lead
- Coulthard charges to win as title contenders struggle
- Schumacher capitalises as Williams get it wrong in the rain again
1994 F1 season
- Schumacher’s first title tainted by clash with Hill
- How Brundle’s 1994 Suzuka crash mirrored Bianchi’s
- Schumacher edges clear as fuel rig thwarts Hill
- Hill cuts Schumacher’s lead to one point in Portugal
- Hill wins as crash crushes Lotus’s recovery hopes
Image © Ford