Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian F1 Legend, once said, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver.” Senna was Michael Schumacher’s racing idol, but it was Schumacher who was able to achieve the success that Senna had always dreamed of. However, 25 years ago, Schumacher’s rival had a plan to cost him a championship.
Every racing driver has their flaws and weaknesses, and Schumacher was no exception. His aggression was both his strength and his downfall. While it helped him win seven titles, it also led to his loss in some championships.
Schumacher was known for doing whatever it took to win, even if it meant taking risks. Incidents had already occurred during the 1994 and 1997 championship finales that showcased his aggressive nature. Jacques Villeneuve’s engineers revealed that Schumacher’s rivals intentionally put him under pressure to provoke his aggressive behavior. They knew that Schumacher would struggle to maintain his composure when faced with intense pressure.
Jock Clear, the engineer of Villeneuve, stated that they discovered early on that putting Michael under immense pressure would result in his defeat. In the 1998 world championship, he lost to Hakkinen because he stalled on the grid. It’s quite surprising that someone would stall on the grid, isn’t it?
In the 1998 championship, Schumacher succumbed to the pressure and ultimately stalled his car on the track. During the final race of the 1997 championship, Villeneuve strategically capitalized on Schumacher’s predictable actions. Villeneuve took Schumacher by surprise by braking later and maneuvering to the inside. Caught off guard, Schumacher collided with Villeneuve and ultimately withdrew from the race.
Villeneuve provided insight into his plan, stating, “At the hairpin called Dry Sac, located at the end of the straightaway, I was able to delay braking by 10 meters compared to Michael. I recognized this as my chance to make a move. Additionally, I was aware that I needed to catch him off guard by approaching from a considerable distance behind, catching him unaware in his mirrors.”
The plans made by Schumacher’s rivals to put him under pressure ultimately cost him a championship 25 years ago. It highlights the importance of mental strength and composure in the world of racing.