Europe 1995 - Schumacher shines 25 Jun 2003
The 1995 European Grand Prix proved memorable for numerous reasons - a thrilling tussle between the two main championship contenders; a strategic masterstroke that nearly gave Jean Alesi a second career win; and a stirring drive from Michael Schumacher to all but clinch the drivers' crown.
The Nurburgring race was the 14th round of a 17-round campaign, and having already won six races to Damon Hill's three, Schumacher had a pretty tight grip on the championship. However, that didn't mean his English rival was going to give up without a fight.
Hill qualified his Williams second on the grid alongside team mate David Coulthard, with Schumacher's Benetton third. Come the race and, as is so often the case in the Eifel mountains, the weather was being anything but predictable.
The morning rain had stopped, but the circuit was far from dry. That didn't stop a few brave drivers, most notably Ferrari's Jean Alesi, from opting for slick tyres. When the lights changed Coulthard led away, with Schumacher moving ahead of Hill. Alesi, meanwhile, despite his supposed disadvantage, not only retained his sixth place, but also soon found his way past Eddie Irvine's Jordan and Johnny Herbert's Benetton.
With a dry line rapidly appearing, it wasn't long before the leaders were forced to pit for slick tyres. Alesi's gamble looked to have paid off, the French-Sicilian inheriting a healthy advantage over Coulthard, Schumacher and Hill.
Attention shifted to the battle for third. Hill, in what looked to be the faster car, was determined to pass Schumacher's Benetton. However, Schumacher was equally determined to keep his place and defended aggressively, the pair almost coming together at times.
Eventually, a gutsy move got Hill in front, only for him to lose it again almost immediately when he nearly spun in his efforts to escape Schumacher's attentions. Coulthard, meanwhile, was beginning to struggle with the handling of his Williams and soon slipped to fourth behind the two championship rivals.
Hill's race then became even more eventful. When Alesi eventually stopped he retained his lead, but emerged only just ahead of the Williams (Schumacher having pitted again). Hill saw his chance to take the lead, but Alesi resisted and the result was nosecone damage to the Williams. Forced to pit, Hill was never again in contention and went on to crash out on lap 58.
That left Schumacher to take up the chase. Successive fastest laps from the Benetton driver saw Alesi's once comfortable advantage begin to dwindle. The pressure started to tell and the Ferrari even ran off the road at one point. Nevertheless, it still took an audacious move from Schumacher in the closing laps to prise the lead from Alesi.
A late lunge down the outside of the chicane was risky, but it got the champion in front and he went on to win by just over two and a half seconds, with Coulthard a distant third. With Hill failing to score, Schumacher's ten points all but sealed his second consecutive drivers' title and sure enough he went on to secure it with yet another victory at the next round in Japan.