On lap 36 of the championship final in Australia Michael was in second place, right in front of his rival Damon Hill. It was a tough fight between Michael and the Williams pilot. Michael went on the dirt a little but he did not want to pass up an opportunity and tried to make the best of a bad job. Michael defended his position but in doing that he drove over Hill’s front wheel and crashed out of the race.
The delayed feeling of being World Champion
The fans were shocked and Michael leaned against the fence, totally shocked and already saw his world championship title go down the drain. “I did not know what had happened to Damon. Of course I knew that there was a big gap between us and the other drivers on position four, five and six and therefore it should not be a problem for Damon to score this one last point he needed.” Michael could hardly understand what the track speaker was saying. Suddenly he heard: “Hill pitted … problems….” Michael kept an eye out, he waited but Hill did not drive past.
“I knew nothing anymore, I did not know whether I should be happy or not, all my feelings were completely mixed up“. When one of the track Marshals shook his hand and congratulates him, he did not know if he should be happy about his victory, if he should believe it. “It was horrible standing out there and having to wait. But it was an amazing feeling once it was certain. It took me a long time to realize that I have become world champion.”
The disastrous year for Formula 1
At the beginning of the season 1994 Michael won three times in a row. But it was not only the year of Michael’s breakthrough, it was also a year of tragedies. Roland Ratzenberger and Michael’s rival Ayrton Senna were both killed in separate accidents in Imola. But that was not the only tragedy which overshadowed Michael’s first championship season: there were discussions about his Benetton B194 and possibility of a breach of rules, rumours about illegal traction control, the teams refusal to hand in the source code for a FIA investigation, the discovery of hidden functionality in the team’s software, a $100.000 fine, rules were changed, a modified filler neck filter which caused the accident of his team mate Jos Verstappen in Hockenheim, two disqualifications in Spa-Francorchamps and in Silverstone and a two-race ban. All that got Michael and his team a bad reputation and jeopardised his chances to win because he was only allowed to compete at 12 instead of 16 races.
In Silverstone Michael was penalised for overtaking Damon Hill on the formation lap. “He was so slow, I did not want to brake so hard“, Michael described the situation. He then ignored the penalty and the subsequent black flag because his team did not inform him in time. He continued to drive, did the five seconds stop and became second in the end.