In ’ 67, Denny Hulme’s reliable Brabham beat the faster combo f Jimmy Clark/Lotus to the title.
“In 1995, neither
Damon Hill nor
Schumacher’s brilliance ensured he won
on those circuits where the car worked –
notably Monaco and Montreal – and
scored consistently when the Williams
was long gone. Alonso has done much
the same for Ferrari this year.
Vettel, like Villeneuve, looks set to
take the title in the best car but has done
it in much more resounding fashion than
the Canadian. In between Jacques’ seven
wins were some potentially expensive
mistakes – crashing out on the second lap
of Montreal while trying to keep up with
Schumacher, for example – and occasional
unconvincing performances. His peaks
were high, but he almost lost the title
while driving demonstrably the best car.
If Schumacher had won in ’97, it would
have been at least the second time he’d
done so without the best car. The common
perception is that his titles for Benetton
in ’94 and ’95 were taken against a
superior Williams. But the architects of
those triumphs, Ross Brawn and Rory
Byrne, disagree regarding the first.
“The B194 was a great car,” says Brawn,
“especially in race trim because with that
Cosworth V8 we could start the race
significantly lighter than the Williams.
Taking nothing away from Michael, I
think we had the best car that year.
2000 saw the start of the Schumacher/
Ferrari era of dominance. It took Alonso
and Renault (ABOVE) to break that
stranglehold six long seasons later.
People assume the [Renault V10-engined]
B195 was better, but actually I think
Michael flattered it considerably in ’95. If
there was a year when we won without
having the best car, it was ’95, not ’94.”
Regardless of why the ’94 car was so
fast (banned traction control was found
in its software codes), it should be
remembered that the ’94 Williams had a
severe aerodynamic stall problem for much
of the first part of the season. The ’95
Williams FW17 had no such problems but
neither Damon Hill nor David Coulthard
had Schumacher’s sheer virtuosity.
If Williams tended to favor investing
in technology rather than highly paid
drivers through the period 1992-’97, you’d
have to say it was a successful policy:
four drivers’ and five constructors’
championships in six years. In that time,
the greatest drivers of the era – Ayrton
Senna initially, Michael Schumacher
later – were elsewhere, aside from Senna’s
tragic three-race stint with them. In ’91,
Senna took his third championship in a
McLaren that for much of the season was
definitely not as fast as the first
Newey-designed Williams, the FW14.
However, there is a subtle distinction
to be made between this feat and that of
Schumacher in ’95. Much of Michael’s
triumph was derived from outperforming
the Williams drivers who were not of the
absolute front rank. That could not be
said of Senna’s 1991 adversary, Nigel
Mansell, one of the fastest and most
fiercely combative drivers of all time.
So how did Ayrton achieve that? In the
cold, hard light of analysis, it was because
Mansell retired from the first three races
of the season with a litany of technical
problems while Senna had waltzed to
three consecutive wins. Mansell hit