A return to racing - Spanish Grand Prix 1994 30 Apr 2003
1994 was proving a tough season when the circus arrived in Spain. The tragic events of the San Marino Grand Prix had been compounded by Karl Wendlinger's accident at Monaco which had left him in a coma, and what was needed now was a good race to lift spirits. Damon Hill came through to win in emotional circumstances, dedicating his victory to the late Ayrton Senna, whilst Michael Schumacher laid yet another brick in the foundations of his legend by finishing second, having driven the majority of the race stuck in fifth gear.
The race was the first for David Coulthard in the Williams Renault. Starting ninth, he was up to sixth by the third lap. The Williams could not keep pace with the might of Benetton in'94, and in the early laps Michael Schumacher pulled away from second placed Damon Hill, himself closely followed by the McLaren of Hakkinen, at a rate of a second a lap.
Behind this battle Jean Alesi was managing to keep JJ Lehto's Benetton behind his Ferrari, with Coulthard snapping at the Finn's heels. At the first round of stops Schumacher emerged at a seriously reduced speed - his gearbox wouldn't select gear. The German however refused to give up. Hakkinen led from Hill and Schumacher.
Coulthard's F1 debut ended on lap 32 when his Williams Renault stalled out on track after developing electrical problems. Schumacher meanwhile, although stuck in fifth gear, was posting lap times comparable to those being set by the Williams and McLaren drivers.
After an early second stop Hakkinen fell to second. His race was soon over however when his Peugeot engine gave up in a plume of smoke on lap 48. Hill now led from Schumacher and Lehto. The Finn's race was also to last only a few more laps, as his Ford engine suddenly lost power and then expired.
Martin Brundle inherited the final podium spot only for his transmission to explode on the start finish straight. With Alesi's Ferrari unable to keep up with the leaders, Mark Blundell took the best finish of his Formula One career, taking the seemingly cursed final place on the podium.
The look of shock on Hill's face when Schumacher revealed his gearbox problems in the post-race press conference was telling. Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore considered Schumacher's drive that day one of the best he had ever witnessed. Few could argue. It was just what the sport had needed.