The 1994 Spanish Grand Prix - Schumacher Finishes on Podium Stuck in Fifth Gear
1994 Spanish Grand Prix
There is something about the Spanish Grands Prix and Michael Schumacher. The 1994 Spanish Grand Prix was one of the demanding races for Michael; demanding from fans’ perspective whereas Michael did not appear to break a sweat. Just a year earlier Michael had shared the podium with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the same venue. So, there was something about the venue.
You can read more about the 1993 Spanish GP here.
The 1994 season saw Schumacher on his own since Prost retired from F1 in 1993 and Ayrton Senna met his untimely demise in 1994. Damon Hill became Schumi’s main title rival, but Williams team was yet to see a GP win in 1994.
Michael Schumacher started the Spanish GP from pole and continued to dominate the race by pulling away from the rest of the pack including Damon Hill. The domination continued, and it appeared like another Schumacher and Benneton victory until..
Did You Know?
In the 1993 (not 1994) Spanish Grand Prix, for the first and last time, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna shared the podium.
It was a podium of legends. Each of those drivers dominated F1 from 1980 (Alain’s debut) to 2006 (Schumacher’s retirement) with a collective 183 wins and 14 world titles.
The Benneton Got Stuck in Fifth Gear
About one-third through the race, Schumacher’s Benneton got stuck in the fifth gear. From there, to finish the race would have been a tall-ask considering that there was still more than two-thirds of the race to go. But Schumi continued.
Although there could have been similar instances before the Spanish GP, the only one which was equally gruelling was Ayrton Senna’s ten-lap run with the car stuck in sixth gear at Interlagos in 1991.
Note: The video is in a different language, but the subtitles are quite decent to follow.
So, here we see Senna stuck in the sixth gear and having to nurse the car to the finish line. Patrese was pushing hard to catch on, but Senna eventually finished the race as the winner. The Brazilian GP was a demanding, yet emotional win as Senna won for the first time at his home race. So, the victory was special despite the demanding situation.
Michael Schumacher’s Race Stuck in Fifth Gear
But could Michael do it? Besides, Michael had to do it over a longer distance and more number of laps than Senna’s ten. To cut a long story short. Michael did do it, but the story was not known until after the end of the race; barring, of course, the team.
Take a look at the video talking briefly about Michael doing the fifth gear run.
The interesting part about the race was that Michael had a whole lot to do than the other drivers. He had to manage the car when it was slow at the corners so that it did not stall, had to ensure that the car did not over-rev when on the straight-line as the car could not go above the fifth gear and had to ensure that the car was nursed through these highs and lows. And, more importantly, he had to win the race.
Michael even completed a pit-stop with the car stuck in gear. Meaning, he stopped and started the car from the fifth gear. Despite all that, he raced competitively and ensured that he could take the second spot in the race.
But wasn’t Michael Leading the 1994 Spanish GP?
Michael was indeed leading the race before the gear incident, and he had opened up enough gap to stay ahead of Damon Hill in the second spot for a good part of the race. It was only near the end of the race when Damon passed Schumacher to take the lead. Take a look at the highlights of the 1994 Spanish GP.
Thanks to a decent gap to the third-placed car, Michael could bring his car in at the second spot; definitely, one of the outstanding achievements of his illustrious career. And we need to keep in mind, that Schumacher was just two and a half years into F1 at that point.
Well, there was yet another milestone achieved on that day. Till that time, including the fateful race in which Senna lost his life, Michael was the one leading and finishing first. The Williams, notorious for its unstable car, couldn’t finish at the top at all. So the issue with Michael’s car allowed the Williams to finish first for the first time in the 1994 season. And as expected, it was an emotional moment for the entire team.
The 1994 Spanish GP was a race with multiple dimensions, indeed!
Did You Know?
In the 1994 season, Schumacher had opened up quite a points lead to the second-place man by the first half of the season. He was well set for the championship but the race bans in the latter half of the season undid the lead.
All this culminated into the 1994 finale where Schumacher and Damon Hill were separated by just one point and then the infamous crash, giving Schumacher his first driver’s championship.
Back to the Garage
The 1994 Spanish GP was a race which highlighted the racer that the F1 world had unearthed. In Schumacher F1 had a tiny fillip to the mighty loss of Ayrton Senna; mind you, the world did not yet know that Schumacher would win the 1994 season nor that he would go on to win seven titles.
Schumacher’s achievement in the 1994 Spanish GP, in a way, was a fitting tribute to Senna, who had done something similar in the 1991 season.
The world of F1 was waking up to its next legend in the making!
© 2019 S K