From Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi to Rafael Nadal versus
Roger Federer, rivalries exist in every sport. Such fierce
competition has also been present in racing for several decades.
While the late 1980s and early 1990s in Formula 1 were marked by
the intense rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, at the
beginning of 1994 things finally seemed to be calming down in the
premier class. Prost had retired and title contenders Senna,
Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill had great respect for each other.
This would change soon enough, however. When Ayrton Senna was
tragically killed at the third round of the season, it was Hill and
Schumacher who found themselves in a tight title fight. The two
titans met regularly on the track and the battle became
increasingly fierce. At the British Grand Prix, Schumacher overtook
Hill during the formation lap which resulted in the
disqualification of the German driver. Schumacher ignored the black
flag and received a race ban for the next two events. Later in the
season, Schumacher openly says that his British rival “is not a
world-class driver.” Tempers were heating up. After an eventful
year, F1 descended on Adelaide, Australia, in November 1994 for the
season finale. At that point, Schumacher was one point ahead of
Hill in the championship. Controversial finale Hill’s team-mate
Nigel Mansell qualified on pole position. However, Mansell couldn’t
maintain his leading position for long as Schumacher took the lead
at the very first corner. Hill closed in on second place. The order
held until lap 36, when Schumacher lost his Benetton car at the
East Terrace corner and hit the wall. As Schumacher returned to the
track, Hill tried to overtake him. Schumacher did not yield to the
Briton – he steered in, touched Hill’s Williams car and dropped
out. It seemed over for the German, who was forced to watch the
race unfold nail-bitingly from behind the barriers. Hill hobbled to
the pit lane in his damaged Williams car. Once in the pits,
Williams’ mechanics judged that Hill couldn’t continue his race.
The front left suspension of his Williams FW14B was badly damaged
and it would be irresponsible to send Hill back onto the track.
Hill’s failure allowed Schumacher to walk away with his first world
title. A world title that had controversy surrounding it. Post-race
fallout Many F1 fans blame Schumacher for the touch between the
German and Hill. After an investigation, race stewards ruled that
it was a racing incident and no action would be taken against
Schumacher. At the age of 25, Schumacher became the first German
Formula 1 World Champion, albeit under highly controversial
circumstances. In the years that followed, Schumacher maintained
that the collision was a racing incident, a position that is
received with much media cynicism. Although Hill deliberately
avoided getting involved in the fuss, he later explicitly accused
Schumacher of deliberately driving into him. Formula 1 commentator
Murray Walker insists that Schumacher did not intentionally cause
the crash, while his fellow commentators – former F1 driver
Jonathan Palmer and pit reporter Barry Sheene – both claim that
Schumacher was indeed guilty. Patrick Head of the Williams team
stated years later to F1 Racing magazine that “Williams was already
100 per cent sure in 1994 that Michael was guilty of
unsportsmanlike conduct,” but did not protest Schumacher’s title
because the team was still dealing with Senna’s death. The British
public also blames Schumacher; in 2003, the BBC held a search for
“The Most Unsportsmanlike Moment in Formula 1,” nominating the
Adelaide incident. It remains to be seen if the ultimate truth
comes out regarding the incident on November 13, 1994.

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