Big changes met F1 fans at the beginning of 1995 season. The new engine capacity rule (3.0 litre instead of 3.5) was the biggest technical change since 1989 when turbo engines were prohibited. Also in '95, cars were made more safe than in '94 due to resizing of cockpits and new crash-test regulations. The 1994 F1 World Championship driver and team was awarded with new Renault engines and a partnership with the manufacturer. Sadly, 1995 also marked the first time within 11 years that an F1 season started without Ayrton Senna... However, Brazil did offer something promising to F1: Pedro Diniz in new F1 team - Forti-Ford. Furthermore, Roberto Moreno rejoined F1, as second Forti driver.
The first qualifying sessions in Brazil showed that the season will be dominated by Williams and Benetton. Schumacher was disappointed with his car's handling. He had a heavy crash during a practice session, but escaped unhurt. Hill was on pole, but Schumacher took the lead in the first corner. During the Brazilian GP, we saw the first battle between these two drivers. Damon Hill lost his chance for a win when he spun off in Senna chicane. Interlagos resulted in a first win in the season for Michael Schumacher/Benetton-Renault. Second place went to a young Scot, David Coulthard in the Williams-Renault team. Third place was grabbed by Gerhard Berger for Ferrari. Ferrari looked constant with no noticeable improvement since the 1994 season. Also, Tyrrell-Yamaha looked good; young driver Mika Salo was third for a moment in the race. After the podium celebration, the entire paddock was surprised by a FIA decision: Schumacher and Coulthard were disqualified due to use of illegal fuel supplied by Elf. Yet, another scandal in F1. "Will the 1995 season be full of scandals as the previous year?" -- asked fans and newspapers. The fuel used was not the same as what Benetton and Williams submitted to the FIA before the start of the season. After appeals, both drivers received their points back, but the accused teams were held guilty and remained pointless after the process.
Next race was in Argentina. Home of late five times F1 World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio who died later in the year. This was the first time F1 visited Argentina since 1981. Drivers were not happy with very tight circuit. "The largest go-kart circuit in the World," joked David Coulthard, who managed his first pole position ever. The GP was won by Damon Hill, Alesi was second and Schumacher third.
After Ayrton Senna's death last year, circuit Imola was rebuilt. Now the circuit appears to be safer and, I think, more interesting. 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell replaced Mark Blundell in McLaren-Mercedes. McLaren built a special chassis for Nigel with a modified cockpit. But "Fat Man-sell" was unhappy with the car's performance. The race was won by Hill and the next two places for a Ferrari duet: Alesi and Berger (Mansell finished 10th). Schumacher didn't finish because he spun off on cold tires.
In Spain, luck left Alesi... he blew an engine during the race just before a pit stop. Schumacher won his first GP since Brazil. His win came from good strategy and superb team work. Damon Hill had hopes for second place, but an engine failure smashed them; he finished 4th. Johnny Herbert took his first career second place in the Benetton-Renault car. Ferrari appeared again in the top three with Gerhard Berger.
Damon's father, Graham, won at Monaco five times. Things were looking quite good for Damon when he won pole position in the 53rd Grand Prix of Monaco. But, Schumacher and his team changed Hill's hopes for a victory. Schumacher planned one pit stop when his rival scheduled two. "Schumi" overtook Damon during a pit stop, and won the Monaco GP: first Monaco win for Renault. The race was full of drama. After the start, Alesi, Coulthard and Berger made contact which resulted in a red flag and the race was restarted. Again, the start was controlled by pole sitter, Damon Hill. An Accident with Martin Brundle in the Ligier cost Jean Alesi second place. Hill took second and Berger third. Also, Christophe Boullion made his GP debut in Monaco. This 25 year old French driver replaced Karl Wendlinger in the Sauber-Ford. Karl had a crash here last year which was nearly fatal. As a result, Wendlinger never seemed to return within his driving style of old, so Sauber made the move for Boullion.
Again, the F1 circus ventured over the Atlantic to Montreal in Canada. Schumacher took pole position. It was the 100th pole for Renault, but it wasn't a successful GP for cars with these engines. Hill and Coulthard had problems with the Williams. First Coulthard retired with a dramatic spin opposite the Ferraris. Herbert made a contact with Mika Hakkinen in the very early stage of the race. Michael Schumacher was leading when he suffered a problem with his gears -- He had to make a pit stop which ended up being much too long for retaining the lead. Alesi won the GP -- his first victory ever -- and it happened to be his birthday! It was also good day for Jordan-Peugeot team - Barrichello finished second and Irvine third. Schumacher finished with 5th place.
French fans had high hopes after Alesi's win. They expected another at Magny-Cours, home of the French GP in 1995. Even though Hill won pole, Benetton's strategy was again better than Williams' and Schumacher won the race. It was a very exciting battle for third between Coulthard and Brundle during the end of race. This year, Ligier was good and finished in the top 10. (Alesi finished 5th)
Great Britain is the home GP for many of the top F1 drivers like Hill, Coulthard, Herbert, Brundle, Blundell and Irvine. The favorite to win was Hill who won pole position. But on lap 46, Hill made contact with Schumacher. Both drivers were out from the race. "Who made a mistake? ... was it Hill or Schumacher?" asked many F1 fans. It was most controversial accident of the year. After, there was a fantastic battle for 1st place between Herbert and Coulthard. Coulthard took the lead for a while, but due to pit lane speeding he lost his position. Johnny Herbert won his first ever British GP -- his home GP!
Germany has had many talented F1 drivers like Trips, Winkelhock and Mass, but no German driver has ever won the Grand Prix of Germany... until this year. Michael Schumacher didn't have the best car, but good team work coupled with the good fortune of other teams errors made the victory possible. Hill started from pole, but spun off on lap two. Schumacher took the lead. He worried about Coulthard, but David was unable to close up with '94 Champion. Third place went to Berger. Both Mercedes powered McLarens and the "other" German driver, Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber-Ford), were out after engine failures.
Hungarian GP is a one of most difficult grands prix on the F1 calendar. Very winding track with only few places to overtake. As stated before, Williams-Renault has had the best car; this is especially true for tracks with many curves. Damon Hill won pole position and dominated the race with good driving and team work. Damon's teammate Coulthard placed second and Gerhard Berger came third. Schumacher, with an engine failure was classified 11th.
When F1 goes to Spa, home of Belgium GP, they never know what kind of weather will be there. This year, it was generally rain -- but the track was dry in some areas which provided some interesting strategy for the teams. Ferrari drivers, Alesi and Berger, took first row. Hill stood 8th and Schumacher 16th in qualifying sessions! After a few laps Alesi lost first place, which left a battle between Herbert and Coulthard for the top spot. Schumacher and Hill moved up lap after lap, until they were first and second. Sometimes Hill had the advantage, but Schumacher closed the door and remained first for a while. Hill had wet tires and finally took the lead during a drizzle while Schumacher stayed with slicks. Hill made some errors, and Schumacher was first again. Schumacher then changed for wet tires. The rain subsided and Hill made a pit stop, now for slicks. Then rain started again! At times it seemed that nature was enjoying the spectacle it was causing the teams. Adding insult to poor timing, Hill received a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher won race. It was the most interesting and exciting GP I have ever seen!
Monza is the temple of Italian autosport, and home of Italian Grand Prix. Most of fans, of course, came there with hopes of a Ferrari win. However, David Coulthard started from pole position, Berger started 3th and Alesi 5th. On the warm up lap we saw a funny situation when Coulthard spun off. The race was started without the pole sitter! At the end of first lap, a few cars from the back of grid collided and the race had to be restarted. Coulthard now was able to use the spare car and regain pole. Bad luck didn't leave David when he spun again, after the second start, causing him to withdraw from the race. Schumacher and Hill were fighting, once again, for the lead when Hill made a mistake while passing a lapped Taki Inoue. Hill touched the back of Schumacher's car and two drivers were out. Berger was first. Alesi second. The Ferrari fans were going wild, but the situation didn't stay for long. Both Ferraris later withdrew due to car failure, and the race was won by Johnny Herbert in second Benetton car. Second was Mika Hakkinen in McLaren-Mercedes and Frentzen took third in the Sauber-Ford.
Estoril is one of the few circuits in Europe where winter testing is possible for F1. The demanding Nature of the corners and high speed Start/Finish straight combine with the seasonally good weather to make it ideal for Developing the new cars. David Coulthard drove here many times as a test driver which provided him with the experience necessary to help him win his first GP this year. After claiming pole position for the race, equaling his best ever grid position, but also giving his best performance of the season was Frentzen who qualified in 5th position. The Race began with a reminder of how dangerous F1 can be. Ukyo Katayama, the Japanese Tyrrell driver touched Luca Badoer's Minardi and flipped wildly in air! The Tyrrell was badly damaged but Ukyo escaped from this accident uninjured. As many times this year, the best battle was between Hill and Schumacher, with Schumacher finally claiming the higher position of the two, finishing second with Hill third.
F1 left Europe and moved to the Pacific Rim for the last three races of the year. The Pacific GP at Aida saw two debuts for the year, with Jan Magnussen replacing Mika Hakkinen at McLaren-Mercedes (while Mika was recovering from surgery), and Gabriell Tarquini who replaced Ukyo Katyama at Tyrrell. Jan Magnussen is the McLaren test driver, and a very talented young driver. He broke Ayrton Senna's record of wins in British F3 for one season with Paul Stewart Racing, the team to enter F1 in 1997. Magnussen was crowned 1994 British F3 champion and spent 1996 driving for Mercedes in the DTM/ITC. Michael Schumacher won this GP, and finally the World Championship. Michael is the youngest driver to have ever claimed two titles in F1 history and one of few which have won two titles in a row. Coulthard finished second with Hill third.
Flavio Briatore second dream was to finally grasp the F1 Constructors crown... and it happened when Michael Schumacher won the Japanese GP at Suzuka. Schumacher started from pole position. This GP will be remembered for the poor form of the Williams drivers with both Coulthard and Hill spinning off at the same corner. A staggering performance from Jean Alesi who, after receiving a jump start penalty, rejoined the race and set a blistering pace that eventually saw him nearly claim first place from Schumacher. However, Ferrari reliability soon reared its ugly head. Second place was grabbed by Hakkinen in a much improved McLaren performance and third fell to Herbert.
Last race of the season was also the last Australian GP to be held in Adelaide. With the start of the 1996 season, Australia's GP will now be at Melbourne. Again the GP weekend begun very dramatically. Mika Hakkinen spun off at a very fast corner and at a speed of 250 km/h crashed into a thin tire wall. Mika was delivered to hospital quickly, upon which he was diagnosed as suffering concussion (but the outlook was deemed positive). David Coulthard led the race before he crashed...an embarrassing collision into the pit wall. Schumacher made a bad start and he had to overtake the Ferraris. The first time was not a problem for the World Champion, but the second time after his pit stop resulted in a collision with Alesi. Both drivers retired as a result. Only 9 cars finished this race and Hill won decisively. Second place was taken by Panis in the Ligier and third was Morbidelli in a Arrows-Hart. It was the best ever result in the Arrows/Footwork team history and best for Ligier since the mayhem at the '94 German GP. Damon Hill won by 2 laps ahead of Panis which makes him only the second driver ever to accomplish that.
Now we have a couple months to wait for the new F1 season. The 1996 season will bring a few rule changes. We will see only one qualifying session over the weekend, taking place on Saturday. To start the race, All entrants must qualify within 107% of the pole position time. The number of cars permitted to start, however, remains at 26.
After Mika's crash at Adelaide, F1 cars need higher cockpits sides and a more stringent crash test. The FIA is to make a decision on the type of crash test to be added, presumably from the rear of the car.
Next season can be the most interesting in many years. Many drivers changed teams and this may balance the power towards a equilibrium. I hope that we will see battles for first place that are not between two drivers, but between six or eight. More interesting F1 races can bring more fans, more sponsors and more money. More money will enable teams to construct better cars from rejuvenated manufacturer interest and set the reciprocal relationship between driver, team and fan into positive motion. The 1996 season can make a difference in modern motorsport and automotive industry. This process will have an effect for many years and I am very excited for myself, and all motorsport fans who will revel in the sights and sounds of the new season... See you at Melbourne!