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“I think what Damon did was totally unnecessary. In fact, it was really stupid...”
Unlike Damon Hill after that infamous Adelaide race, Michael Schumacher didn’t pull his punches when the pair collided again in Silverstone just eight months later. On the surface of it, his ire was justified.
The flash point came as the pair approached Priory on lap 46 of the British Grand Prix. A one-stop strategy had allowed Schumacher to jump the two-stopping Hill, but the Briton was now on fresher tyres and closing rapidly. A gap of 1.5s on lap 42 had been trimmed to 0.5s two laps later. The chase was on.
Hill, trailing by nine points in the drivers’ standings, needed to make something happen. “I had the advantage of new tyres,” he explained afterward, “but given another three laps, those tyres would have been back to being pretty average.”
Compelled by such urgency, Hill was determined to make a move stick - and when Schumacher appeared to leave the door open, the Briton couldn’t resist. Despite being a long way back he barrelled down the inside - only for Schumacher to begin turning in as the corner neared. Smoke poured from Hill’s brakes, but his momentum was now irresistible. His right front wheel smashed into the side of Schumacher’s Benetton, pitching both men into the gravel trap and out of the race.
“I know Damon wanted to win his home Grand Prix badly, but it was a crazy manoeuvre,” Schumacher continued. “There was no room for two cars and there is no place to overtake there. Even if you brake in the first part and you turn in, it is almost impossible - if I hadn’t been there I think he would have gone straight into the gravel.
“Even in front of your home crowd you have to keep your nerves. I think he was probably under too much pressure and just tried something that wouldn’t work.”
At best, Hill’s move was ambitious. But even so, there were some in the paddock who believed Schumacher was not an innocent party. Aerial replays, for example, showed he had indeed left Hill a lot of space on the approach to Priory, and slowed slightly sooner than normal - to some, evidence of a trap. There were suggestions too that Schumacher had brake-tested Hill one lap earlier - while several lock-ups from the German in the preceding laps convinced others that he had no hope of keeping Hill at bay for the remainder of the race.
While such theories were a touch elaborate, the fact they circulated was significant. Schumacher’s actions in 1994 clearly still resonated.
"It was just a racing accident," was Hill’s take on the collision - and one the stewards ultimately agreed with. "I thought I saw an opportunity that I could take advantage of, but I am afraid that Michael is a harder man to pass than that and we had an accident.
“I was a racing driver doing what racing drivers do - which is to try and get past the bloke in front and win. The fact is, you’ve got an alternative of a rock and a hard place. He refuses to finish second to anyone.”