21 years ago to the day, a young German racing prodigy by the name of Michael Schumacher, 4 years into his racing career, took his maiden world championship at the Australian Grand Prix of 1994.
Although Schumacher had shown his prodigious talent from the beginning of his racing career, finishing his 2nd Formula One season – 1993 – with a staggering 8 podium finishes, of which one was a win, he did not take that year’s championship, outdriven by Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese.
1994 was a standout year for the German, who blitzed through his opponents that season. Although he did not finish a total of four races that year, disqualified from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, the former for disobeying a black flag and the latter ban coming after he had won the race at Spa, but marshals found that he had excessive wear on his tyres, leading to disqualification.
Every one of the ten races he did finish, however, was on the podium; 8 of those wins.
The race year was sadly marred by the tragic death of one of the sport's greatest – Ayrton Senna – at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola – a race that Schumacher won.
He managed to hold on to his title despite two disqualifications, two retirements, and serving a 2-race sit-out penalty following Silverstone. The Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, the final of that season, was not without controversy, however.
Schumacher had only a one-point lead over Briton Damon Hill in the championships, and had led the race until Hill took over.
With Hill attempting to pass Schumacher, the German turned inwards; he was eliminated immediately, with Hill attempting to go on, but pitting and ultimately retiring, with the damage too severe for him to continue racing.
Nigel Mansell, who had not been in a position to win the championship, won the race, with Schumacher sealing that title in what many in the know consider a deliberate move to win.
He was investigated for the action and ultimately not penalised, although the result of that race was still considered suspect by several Formula One enthusiasts and insiders.
At 25 years of age, Michael Schumacher became the country’s first ever F1 champion. To this day, he is regarded as one of those who popularised the sport in the country, and mentored one of modern Formula One’s greatest racers, 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
It may have been one of his more controversial victories, but 1994 began a story that would become legendary in the world of motorsport.