The binomial Michael Schumacher – Ferrari he contributed to rewriting many of the historical records of Formula 1, totally dominating the Circus at the beginning of the new millennium, from 2000 to 2004. That cycle of triumphs, however, came after seasons of vanished victories and not indifferent difficulties. The problems that the Maranello team and the German had to overcome were many, especially in the first year of work together, 1996. A representative race of that season is undoubtedly the French GP, played exactly 25 years ago, on June 30, 1996.
RT TodoFierro: RT TodoFierro: RT Daniel_Caamano: RT 1990sF1: Disaster for Pole Position man Michael Schumacher as his Ferrari V10 blows up on the Formation Lap. French GP, Magny-Cours, 30th June 1996. # F1 pic.twitter.com/9l05Y4yn4M
– Todo Fierro Prensa (@TodoFierro) July 1, 2019
Williams was the boss, led by the championship leader Damon Hill and his main challenger, rookie Jacques Villeneuve. Schumacher, after a few adaptation races, had already won his first victory in red, in the unforgettable race in Barcelona, under a torrential downpour. The darkest clouds, however, from the point of view of performance, were those on the horizon. In Canada, the following GP, the then two-time world champion had problems during the reconnaissance lap, started from the last position and then was forced to retire due to a broken drive shaft.
Nothing comparable to what happened in France, where the former Benetton managed to achieve a spectacular pole position on Saturday, beating the Williams of his great rival Damon Hill by just 69 thousandths. However, Schumacher’s race never started. In fact, halfway through the reconnaissance lap, the V10 of his F310 crashed, with a white smoke as impressive as it was embarrassing for the Maranello team. The images of Schumacher disconsolate inside his car went around the world. It was then that the partnership was in danger of breaking up, with the majority of public opinion wanting to take the lead Jean Todt, boss of the Ferrari wall at the time. Schumacher instead defended the transalpine executive with a drawn sword, thus laying the foundations for the great human bond that would have been created between the two.
In history, after that GP, only two more times did the poleman on Saturday not start the race. In Indianapolis in 2005, when Jarno Trulli did not start together with all the other Michelin-wheeled cars, and this year, in Monte-Carlo, when Charles Leclerc had to surrender before the race. Without Schumacher that GP became the last – to date – in which not even a world champion was present at the start. The race, on the other hand, was a solo of those who would have won the title that season, Damon Hill. The Englishman drove in front of everyone for the entire race, ahead of his teammate Villeneuve, author of a comeback from sixth to second. In third and fourth place, however, the two Benettons of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger closed.