Formula 1

Schumacher’s First F1 Championship Was Achieved with Illegal Assistance

Jos Verstappen, Schumacher’s teammate during the 1994 season, claims the German’s car was equipped with illegal electronic devices.

Jos Verstappen, Michael Schumacher's Benetton teammate back in 1994, has revealed in a recent interview to a Dutch magazine a very open secret: the seven-time world champion won his first title by using illegal electronic driver aids. Verstappen said that only on Schumacher's Benetton, was special illegal equipment installed and his performances that season, in an identical Benetton-Ford car, were inferior to Schumacher's.

"People think I'm looking for excuses but I know that his car was different from mine," said Verstappen. "I always thought it was impossible; I braked at the limit and took the corners as hard as possible, so how could Schumacher do it? There was something wrong. There were electronic driver aids. It was never mentioned, but I'm convinced and when I later asked Flavio Briatore (the team principal) he replied: 'Let's not talk about it'. So I know enough now. Like everyone else, Michael is also dependent on his car. For most people he was a god, but he is not superman - in a go-kart he never beat me," added Verstappen.

The 1994 F1 season, in which Ayrton Senna died in a racing accident at Imola, was one of the most controversial in the sport's history. The FIA banned electronic driver aids from the season's start, though Senna even claimed that Schumacher's Benetton was equipped with them. Later in the season it was discovered that the team did install an unlawful launch control program in the management system, though the team got away with it by claiming they simply never used it. In the same year, the FIA also introduced refueling into F1 which almost had dire consequences for Verstappen.

In order to safeguard drivers and mechanics during refueling stops, the pace of fuel flow into the tank was limited. During the German Grand Prix, Verstappen's car caught fire during a refueling stop. In the ensued investigation it was found that Benetton's mechanics removed a filter in order to hasten the fuel flow which caused the leak, which lead to the fireball. Despite those findings, Benetton was never punished for those rule violations. And it wasn't over yet. Schumacher's win at the Belgian GP was disqualified after it was found that a wooden plank underneath the car was too thin.

He was then banned from two races following an incident during the British GP in which he became the first driver ever to win a race while driving in the pit lane. In the last race of the season he probably crashed on purpose into Damon Hill's Williams after he damaged his car when Hill tried to overtake him. Schumacher then won the Drivers' World Championship by one point from Hill. "You see, Michael also depends on his equipment. For most of the people he was God. That's a bit of vanishing now. He's not a superman, he never was," concluded Verstappen.

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