Michael Schumacher had many incredible races but this race was to show his resilience and determination to finish a race even with mechanical issues with his car.
It was the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and the first race after the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenburger and Ayrton Senna at the previous race at Imola. Schumacher was driving one of the Benetton-Ford cars, his team JJ Lehto, in the other.
Several top level names including Michael Schumacher, were instrumental in the set up and running of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) and this was their first race and they made the decision to install a temporary chicane before the Nissan corner which was generally taken at near flat-out speeds, as an attempt to improve safety as well as speed limits around the track.
Schumacher took pole position, the second of his career and the second pole position in succession some half a second clear of Damon Hill who qualified 2nd just one thousandth of a second ahead of Mika Hakkinen in third and Schumacher’s teammate, JJ Lehto in 4th.
Rubens Barrichello in the Jordan qualified 5th followed by the two Ferraris of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Martin Brundle driving the second Mclaren managed 8th and David Coulthard, who was making his debut in Formula 1 for Williams replacing Ayrton Senna qualified a respectable 9th. The Tyrrell, driven by Uko Katauama, completed the top ten.
Andrea Montermini had been elevated from test driver for Simtek after the death of Roland Ratzenberger but crashed heavily into the pit wall breaking both his ankles and thus ending his race and also his racing for the rest of the season.
Beretta retired on the formation lap when his Larousse-Ford’s engine failed on the formation lap but when the 65 lap race started Schumacher led from pole position at the start of the race, Barrichello and Berger collided at the first corner. Neither driver retired as a direct result of the collision, although both did eventually.
Schumacher led for the opening 22 laps of the race before pitting at which point it looked like gearbox issues, which left the Benetton with only 5th gear, was going to upset the German’s race.
Despite driving the last 40 laps in fifth gear which included another pit stop (in which he managed not to stall the car), Schumacher continued to set respectable lap times considering he was losing up to 20 mph on the pit-straight. Schumacher adjusted his driving style to find new racing lines, backing off early on the straights and rolling through the corners drawing on his past experience as a World Sports Car driver to help him.
Schumacher finished a very respectable 2nd place behind some 24 seconds behind the Williams of Damon Hill. It was a truly stunning drive to adapt to the ailing car and still bring it home on the podium, a true racer that kept fighting in conditions that were against him, the stuff legends are made from.
Schumacher commented after the race:
“At the beginning it was a bit difficult to take all the corners in fifth gear, but then I managed to find a good line and keep up lap times that were more or less good enough to compete against the others behind me.”
A truly stunning drive from a true legend.
Here are the result’s of the race: