The Germans say Einmal ist keinmal, literally “one time is no time” – as if becoming Formula One Champion just once weren’t enough. It’s not, but that didn’t stop Michael Schumacher from winning it a second time. On October 22, 1995, driving for Benetton, Schumacher proved he was no one-hit wonder.
His first title, which he earned the year before – when he became the first German to win the Formula One Championship – offended the honour of the Brits, who had long dominated the motorsports scene. In 1995 Schumacher once again challenged Damon Hill for the top spot. His countrymen felt Hill was too slow, unable to do what it took to win.
At the third-to-last race of the season, the Pacific Grand Prix in Aida, Japan, Hill wanted to prove all his critics – Schumacher most of all – wrong. Hill started in second position, Schumacher in third. After duelling in the first curve, both fell back. But Schumacher, relying on a clever pit-stop gambit and fully exploiting his new tires, took the lead after 50 laps and never looked back, cruising to his second championship title.
Damon Hill’s father, Graham, also won two titles, though not in succession. This put him in the ranks of other exceptional Formula One drivers with two championships under their belt, each of whom had shaped an era. Michael Schumacher joined this impressive group early in his career.
The first two-time Formula One champion was Alberto Ascari, who earned his titles in 1952 and 1953. The Argentinian Juan-Manuel Fangio won four consecutive titles between 1954 and 1957. Other drivers to reach the milestone before Michael Schumacher were Jack Brabham (1959, 1960), Alain Prost (1985, 1986) and Ayrton Senna (1990, 1991).
Schumacher himself would go on to win five more titles – also consecutively – with Ferrari. But there were other two-time winners among the elite drivers that Schumacher raced against: Mika Häkkinen (1998, 1999), Fernando Alonso (2005, 2006) and Sebastian Vettel, who racked up four titles between 2010 and 2013.
Schumacher celebrated his second win with child-like excitement. He already knew that the next chapter in his career was waiting for him at Ferrari. But first he wanted to enjoy the moment. He had proven himself, and showed the world, garnering a good deal of attention and respect in the process. Though he was only 26, he had firmly established himself in the upper echelons of Formula One racing.