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SUZUKACIRCUIT MOTORSPORTS LIBRARY

1994In a hard rain, the severest race in the history of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher fought against invisible opponents

Two drivers, congratulating each other after the race

Two drivers, congratulating each other after the race

The 1994 was a year when a generation of stars emerged in F1. Alain Prost retired from the Formula One and Ayrton Senna was hit by misfortunes at the San Marino Grand Prix, the third round of the Championship. It was Michael Schumacher at Benetton team who has led the Formula One World Championship. He had won six Grand Prix races by the seventh round of the series to get a good margin of lead over Damon Hill of the defending champion team, Williams. owever, Schumacher had suffered a series of misfortunes from halfway through the season and Hill scored points steadily in the interim. Hill came within five points of Schumacher in the point standings coming into the Japanese Grand Prix, the 15th round of the Championship. With two rounds left, Hill wanted to finish the race ahead of Schumacher to reduce the gap between them in the point standings. On the other hand, Schumacher wanted to increase the margin of lead to more than 10 points to clinch the title at Suzuka. The Championship title contest being played out by two new heroes in Formula One was reaching its climax.

Schumacher took pole position in an intense qualifying sessions Hill took second place on the starting grid, narrowly behind the pole sitter

The race is spoiled by rain The race saw Schumacher holding the lead, followed by Hill. The conditions made for a very eventful race, with cars spinning out or running off the track to crash and the red flag was shown on lap 13 to stop the race. The race was resumed with the starting grid in the order they occupied before the race was suspended. The regulation of that time was one by which the time difference at the point at which the race was stopped was added to the competitor’s time for the second part of the race after the restart. Since Schumacher had built up a lead of 6.8 seconds over Hill before the stopping of the race, it meant that Hill had to finish the race with a lead of over 6.8 seconds in order to beat Schumacher and win the race.

Hill, before the start of the race

Hill, before the start of the race

The race was stopped. The regulation was that the final finishing order would be decided by the combined times of the two halves of the race

The race was stopped. The regulation was that the final finishing order would be decided by the combined times of the two halves of the race

Schumacher was holding off Hill in the early laps

Schumacher was holding off Hill in the early laps

Schumacher took the lead again when the race was resumed, but he got caught up with back markers after having completed his pit stop, which slowed his pace. On the other hand, Hill, who succeeded in his strategy to pit late, moved into the lead. Schumacher then increased his pace to close on Hill. The gap between the two cars decreased to within six seconds and then the German driver took the lead again on lap 36. However, he had to make an extra pit stop with 10 laps remaining in the race due to his tires getting worn out, which enabled Hill to recover first place. There was about 15 seconds between Hill and Schumacher at that point. Everyone was convinced Hill would win, but Schumacher began to fight his way through the field to chase Hill. The Williams driver was receiving information about the time gap to Schumacher from his pit moment by moment. It seemed as if Damon Hill was fighting not with an opponent running in front of him but against an invisible time gap. The Benetton driver was obviously running at a higher pace than Hill but the British driver continued to drive with determination despite his worn tires. Damon Hill, perhaps might have been seeing an image of Schumacher which was not actually reflecting in his rear-view mirrors. Hill did not ease up on the accelerator when he was about to overrun at the hairpin curve and then again at the chicane. Damon Hill went on to take the checkered flag about 10 seconds ahead of Schumacher, who was passing through the chicane when Hill crossed the finish line. This was the sixth win of the season for Hill. Thus, he reduced the gap in Championship points with Schumacher to one point as the series went into the final round of the season. Both Hill and Schumacher had fought with an invisible rival. That race is still talked about even today.

Schumacher was chasing an invisible rival

Schumacher was chasing an invisible rival

Hill, making a last-ditch effort for the win

Hill, making a last-ditch effort for the win

Hill (center) and Schumacher (left) after their fierce battle

Hill (center) and Schumacher (left) after their fierce battle

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