Saturday, August 28, 2021
From 16th place to first place
Michael Schumacher’s hussar ride in Spa
Pure drama at the 1995 Formula 1 GP in Spa: Michael Schumacher destroyed his car in qualifying and had to start from 16th place in the race. Then a rain battle of the extra class begins. Schumacher and his adversary Damon Hill really do it – until the German wins with a masterpiece.
A few days before the 1995 Grand Prix weekend in Spa, Michael Schumacher’s imminent move from Benetton to Ferrari became known. The news caused a sensation in the paddock, after all, the reigning world champion left his successful team and joined the garage band from Maranello, which was chronically unsuccessful at the time. Schumacher should lead Ferrari back upstairs, which he did. But this is another story.
So back to Spa, on the route that is still associated with the name Schumacher like no other. In 1991 the eternal Kerpener drove his first Formula 1 race there at the age of 22, in 1992 he won the first of his 91 Grand Prix victories on the Ardennes circuit. And in his first World Cup year in 1994, his victory in Spa was denied due to a non-compliant floor slab.
In 1995, the fuss about signing his contract with Ferrari seems to be a little unsettling to the always cool-headed Schumacher. During training on Saturday, he flies out of the notorious Malmedy right turn into a pile of tires and destroys his car. Although the mechanics manage to get the Benetton back on all four wheels by qualifying, the annoyed Schumacher only ends up in the pouring rain on starting position 16. Title rival Damon Hill is already etching that the German only went to Ferrari for the money, title will probably not get Maranello with Schumacher.
One of Schumacher’s most spectacular victories
The race on August 27, 1995 started on a dry track, but soon the rain, which was almost inevitable in the Ardennes, set in. Everyone, including Williams front man Hill, pits to change tires. Not Schumacher, he stays outside – on slicks. The Kerpener will later say that he knew exactly what was and what wasn’t in Spa. All attempts by his team to get him to change tires fail.
Due to the pit stops of the competition, Schumacher took the lead at half time of the race and he defends it with literally all means. Hill tries everything to get past the unloved German, but with a driving style that he has already learned in his karting years, Schumacher keeps the much faster Briton at a distance.
When the Benetton finally goes off the track at the end of the Kemmel Straight, Hill pulls past effortlessly, the race seems decided. Not for Schumacher, who then also has the weather god on his side. The rain subsided, when the track dried out, Hill had to change tires again and received a ten-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. The race is over, the winner is Michael Schumacher, as is so often the case at that time.
Spa 1995 is certainly one of the most spectacular of its 91 Grand Prix victories. That record once seemed to last forever, then came Lewis Hamilton. But that’s another story, too.