Hill cuts Schumacher’s lead to one point in Portugal

1994 Portuguese Grand Prix flashback

Posted on

| Written by

Damon Hill took his third consecutive victory in the extraordinary 1994 season to move within one point of the championship lead with three races remaining.

Michael Schumacher was powerless to stop Hill reducing his margin to almost nothing as he served the final race of a two-event ban following his British Grand Prix infraction.

Hill won the Portuguese Grand Prix, held on this day 20 years ago, after he sprang an opportunistic pass on team mate David Coulthard to win the race – at the very corner where his Williams had been flipped upside down just 48 hours earlier.

A scare for Hill

Ten years since its introduction to the Formula One calendar, the Estoril circuit was no longer considered up to modern grand prix standards in the wake of the Imola tragedies.

The Portuguese track’s penultimate corner, a left-handed flick which the drivers approached at high speed, was the main focus of their concern. As had been the case at other circuits the inability to extend the run-off at that point meant the approach to it had to be slowed down.

This was achieved by adding a corner which was so narrow and slow it seemed to belong at Monaco rather than on a purpose-built road circuit. It was named Saca Rolhas – ‘corkscrew’ – but was no equal of the famed corner on America’s Laguna Seca circuit which shared the same name. The corner was so tight the drivers even raised the possibility of having a permanent yellow flag at the corner during the race, to prevent drivers from attempting overtaking moves while going through it.

Among those who were caught out by it on the first day of practice was Eddie Irvine. Already under fierce scrutiny following his three-race ban earlier in the year and under a suspended sanction after triggering a race-stopping shunt in the previous round, Irvine’s latest error was an innocent one with unfortunate consequences.

As Irvine’s Jordan arrived at the corner pointing the wrong way Hill, who was pressing on after an earlier spin, arrived on the scene. He tried to dodge around the Jordan, which was still rolling backwards, but the pair touched wheels and the Williams was pitched into the air, flipping onto its roll hoop.

Given the importance of the weekend for his championship chances this was an unfortunate time for Hill to discover what it felt like to roll a racing car. He was unharmed, but the marshals’ botched attempt at recovering his car did more damage to it than the incident itself.

Berger puts Ferrari in front again

Benetton continued to struggle in Schumacher’s absence. At a track which should have suited the nimble B194 far better than Monza had Jos Verstappen only scraped into the top ten and JJ Lehto was 14th.

Hill’s aerobatics on Friday and deteriorating track conditions on Saturday meant he could only manage second. Gerhard Berger continued to demonstrate Ferrari’s resurgence with their third pole position in five races – at a track where he had crashed out in embarrassing circumstances when his active suspension failed 12 months earlier.

With Nigel Mansell due to return to Williams at the next round, David Coulthard was driving his last race for the team, and backed up Hill in third.

Mika Hakkinen benefited from an uprated Peugeot engine to put his McLaren fifth ahead of Alesi and Ukyo Katayama, who again impressed for Tyrrell in qualifying.

For the beleaguered Lotus team there was no repeat of their Monza heroics. The team had gone into administration following the previous race and Neil Cooper, the man charged with determining the team’s future, was keeping an eye on their progress from the paddock.

Although Johnny Herbert still enjoyed the benefit of the revised Mugen-Honda engine the car’s woeful aerodynamics limited him to 20th on the grid. Philippe Adams was back in the second car in place of Alessandro Zanardi, who watched from the pits as Adams struggled to a place on the back row, nearly two seconds off Herbert’s time, though admittedly with the older engine.

1994 Portuguese Grand Prix grid

Row 11. Gerhard Berger 1’20.608
2. Damon Hill 1’20.766
Row 23. David Coulthard 1’21.033
4. Mika Hakkinen 1’21.251
Row 35. Jean Alesi 1’21.517
6. Ukyo Katayama 1’21.590
Row 47. Martin Brundle 1’21.656
8. Rubens Barrichello 1’21.796
Row 59. Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1’21.921
10. Jos Verstappen 1’22.000
Row 611. Christian Fittipaldi 1’22.132
12. Mark Blundell 1’22.288
Row 713. Eddie Irvine 1’22.294
14. JJ Lehto 1’22.369
Row 815. Olivier Panis 1’22.672
16. Gianni Morbidelli 1’22.756
Row 917. Andrea de Cesaris 1’22.885
18. Pierluigi Martini 1’23.243
Row 1019. Michele Alboreto 1’23.364
20. Johnny Herbert 1’23.408
Lotus-Mugen Honda
Row 1121. Eric Bernard 1’23.699
22. Erik Comas 1’24.192
Row 1223. Yannick Dalmas 1’24.438
24. David Brabham 1’24.514
Row 1325. Philippe Adams 1’25.313
Lotus-Mugen Honda
26. Jean-Marc Gounon 1’25.649

Did not qualify

Bertrand Gachot, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’27.385
Paul Belmondo, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’29.000

1994 Portuguese Grand Prix

Despite having beaten the Williams pair to pole position, Berger was concerned about the race pace of the FW16Bs. But as Hill made another indifferent start Berger held his lead and was chased into turn one by Coulthard.

The Williams pair kept the Ferrari in their sights in the opening laps, and just as it seemed as though a contest for the lead was developing, Berger was out. His hopes of repeating his German Grand Prix vanished when a transmission shaft failed on lap eight and his 412T1B coasted to a halt.

Coulthard now led, pursued by Hill, and they remained in that order until Coulthard made his first pit stop on lap 17. Hill came in one lap later, and that handed the lead to Jean Alesi .

With the Williams drivers planning to pit three times, the two-stopping Alesi stayed at the front of the field until lap 22. And when he came in it wasn’t the Williams drivers who took the lead, but Rubens Barrichello, the Jordan driver heading the field for the first time in his career until he pitted three laps later.

Coulthard regained the lead but this also proved short-lived. As they arrived at Saca Rolhas for the 28th time Coulthard, preoccupied with backmarkers ahead, didn’t see Hill diving for the apex of the corner and was forced to surrender the lead to his team mate.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

From that point on Hill was never headed. Alesi removed himself from contention on lap 39 when he lunged at the lapped Simtek of David Brabham from impossible range at turn three, putting both out. Unfathomably, the stewards blamed Brabham for the collision and handed him a one-race ban, suspended for three races.

Hill was nearly eliminated by the other Simtek – Jean-Marc Gounon carelessly cut a path across the track after recovering from one of his two spins. It was a troubling moment for Hill, as Coulthard was still close behind.

Unlike at Monza, Coulthard’s Williams did not fail him at the last and he secured his first podium finish at his eighth attempt. Hakkinen joined the Williams pair on the podium, while team mate Martin Brundle never regained the place he lost to Verstappen at the start and came home sixth behind the Benetton and Barrichello.

Irvine and Christian Fittipaldi were next and Olivier Panis followed them across the line. But the Ligier driver became the second driver after Schumacher to fall foul of the new restrictions on plank wear, and was disqualified.

1994 Portuguese Grand Prix result

Pos.#DriverTeamLapsTime / gap / reason
10Damon HillWilliams-Renault711:41’10.165
22David CoulthardWilliams-Renault710.603
37Mika HäkkinenMcLaren-Peugeot7120.193
414Rubens BarrichelloJordan-Hart7128.003
56Jos VerstappenBenetton-Ford7129.385
68Martin BrundleMcLaren-Peugeot7152.702
715Eddie IrvineJordan-Hart701 lap
89Christian FittipaldiFootwork-Ford701 lap
910Gianni MorbidelliFootwork-Ford701 lap
1025Eric BernardLigier-Renault701 lap
1112Johnny HerbertLotus-Mugen-Honda701 lap
1223Pierluigi MartiniMinardi-Ford692 laps
1324Michele AlboretoMinardi-Ford692 laps
1419Yannick DalmasLarrousse-Ford692 laps
1532Jean-Marc GounonSimtek-Ford674 laps
1611Philippe AdamsLotus-Mugen-Honda674 laps
26Olivier PanisLigier-Renault70Disqualified
4Mark BlundellTyrrell-Yamaha61Engine
5JJ LehtoBenetton-Ford60Accident
29Andrea de CesarisSauber-Mercedes54Accident
27Jean AlesiFerrari38Accident
31David BrabhamSimtek-Ford36Accident
30Heinz Harald FrentzenSauber-Mercedes31Differential
20Erik ComasLarrousse-Ford27Suspension
3Ukyo KatayamaTyrrell-Yamaha26Gearbox
28Gerhard BergerFerrari7Gearbox

1994 Drivers’ championship points

When Schumacher last saw the chequered flag four weeks earlier at Spa, his victory had given him a 35-point margin in the title race. But his disqualification from that race, and suspension from the next two, had given Hill a vital chance which he took full advantage of.

The pair were now set for a three-race scrap for the title. Meanwhile Williams had taken the lead in the drivers’ championship, and could count on the experience brought by Nigel Mansell to aid them in the decisive final rounds.


BrazilPacificSan MarinoMonacoSpainCanadaFranceBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalyPortugal
Michael Schumacher10203040465666666676767676
Damon Hill6677172329393945556575
Gerhard Berger06610101317172727273333
Mika Hakkinen0044444888141822
Jean Alesi444691313191919191919
Rubens Barrichello3777777101010101316
David Coulthard00000224447814
Martin Brundle000666666991112
Jos Verstappen00000000048810
Mark Blundell0000444446888
Olivier Panis0000000067777
Nicola Larini0066666666666
Christian Fittipaldi0333333366666
Heinz-Harald Frentzen0222225555555
Ukyo Katayama2244444555555
Eric Bernard0000000044444
Karl Wendlinger1144444444444
Andrea de Cesaris0003334444444
Pierluigi Martini0000224444444
Gianni Morbidelli0000000022333
Erik Comas0111111122222
Michele Alboreto0001111111111
Eddie Irvine0000111111111
JJ Lehto0000011111111

1994 Constructors’ championship points


BrazilPacificSan MarinoMonacoSpainCanadaFranceBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalyPortugal

Image © Williams/LAT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

21 comments on “Hill cuts Schumacher’s lead to one point in Portugal”

  1. Go Jos Verstappen!

    This was my first full season of following F1 and I really love this 1994 feature. As a Dutch kid, Verstappen was my hero and litterally the whole of motorsport loving Dutch people have a weakspot for the guy. He had so much potential coming into F1 and I still feel a bit bummed out that he didn’t fullfill that. Now, 20 years later with his son being an ever bigger talent than he was, I have a strange nostalgic feeling about him and I really hope he will succeed where his dad didn’t.

    Straingly, although completely different era’s, Verstappen JR has the same career arc up until now but just in a more superlative way: Jos multiple Dutch and European karting champion, Max 10 time domestic champion, multiple Euro and World Series champion, multiple European champion and a World champion. Jos won both the Formula Opel and German F3 championship and the F3 Masters and made F1 in only 2 years in junior formula as a potential future F1 champion, Max just skipped entry level formula all together and jumped straight to F3 and with 8 wins has 3 more than the championship leader but had to retire (from the lead even) to often due to reliability. He won the Masters like his dad and reaches F1 in only 1 year being loaded as the next Senna! (yeah I really don’t know about that but whatever Marko).

    He doesn’t step into a championship contending team like his dad, nor will his teammate’s car be totally different than his, so let’s hope Max’s F1 career will trend up instead of down. From interviews and video’s Max seems like an extremely level headed kid, I will root for him like I did with his dad all these years ago as a proud Dutchy!

  2. Was Coulthard ordered to let Hill through, or would he have been told bearing in mind the championship situation.

    1. He wasn’t told to let Hill past at the time Hill past him but almost certainly woudl have had he still been leading towards the end.

      You can see the pass here-

    2. Coulthard was then back in the lead until he went wide while lapping a backmarker and Hill moved ahead.


  3. Thanks for bringing more memories back, @Keith :)

    If I may make a request, then I would love it if you wrote bios for Johnny Herbert and Ukyo Katayama. I was always happy when they got into/close to points.

    In case of Herbert, I think there was some controversy surrounding his season with Schumacher, wasn’t there? He was able to beat him on occasion, which the German did not respond well to, I seem to recall!

    1. Its been said before that Herbert got close to Schumacher’s lap times in Pre-season testing for 1995 & suddenly was no longer given any access to data from Schumacher’s side of the garage & found himself not been given much testing time or access to the newest components.

      I often wonder how different Herbert’s F1 career could have been had he not had that F3000 accident at Brands Hatch in 1988, He was seriously impressive in his career to that point.
      I also wonder how much damage was done by rushing back too soon to take up the Benetton drive in 1989 & he was clearly nowhere near ready to come back.
      Even when he had more or less recovered when he got back into F1 in 1991 he still had a limp & still struggled at times to apply the braking force to really leave it late on the brakes.

      1. I always thought that Bennetton was quite stupid for letting Herbert go after the 1995 season. He had 2 or 3 wins if I recall, and scored a good amount of points. Instead, they took Berger and Alesi from Ferrari, neither of whom could drive the car well, and wrote off a few chassis trying. Herbert had plenty of experience in the car and would have been an asset; instead they treated him like a pawn. He deserved better.

        1. @PeterG do you know where you heard/read that Peter? I’d love to read about that. As a huge Schumacher fan i’d love to see more of this. I read Michael Schumacher: The Whole Story by Chris Hilton and it doesnt really offer too much detail about such things as that.

          Similarily James Allen’s Michael Schumacher: The edge of greatness deals mainly with his Ferrari days and the Benetton cheating allegations.

          I’d ifnd it very interesting reading such things especially in light if some of the things Eddie Irvine said in Allen’s book. Irvine basically said that yeah Schumacher had no 1 status but the fact was that he couldn’t get close to him, especially during the early ferrari years.

          1. Couple of things I recall reading throughout the years, likely in articles in F1 magazines…Herbert said he was treated like a second class citizen at Benetton. With respect to his mangled feet from his terrible accident, when he came back to racing his feet hurt so much that when he got in the car he would intentionally brace himself for a jolt and then kick the inside wall of the footwell in order to numb his foot, or feet, in order to deal with the pain.

            I met JH and JJ Lheto in Newmarket, a town not far north of Toronto, about a dozen years ago or so. They were at an Audi dealership promoting their pending American Lemans race at Mosport that coming weekend, and were at the dealership racing go-karts in the parking lot. Shook hands and got their autographs but didn’t have much opportunity for conversation, but what nice guys and what a blast they were having in those karts, running circles around the dealership VIPs.

  4. What I find particularly interesting is the fact that at least 25 drivers (24 here plus Mansell) scored some points, even though there were points only for top 6 and there were only 13 races up to this point. With today’s reliability and predictability, out of 22 drivers, only 16 managed to score points so far this season, even thought there are points for top 10 finishers (meaning less drivers contesting for more points positions) and we already had 14 races.

  5. Turn 2 looks horrifically dangerous at this point. Very fast, zero run-off.

    1. Also the right flick at T5.

      1. The whole circuit looks very narrow with the barriers very close to the track. It is interesting to see how it has been changed since: http://www.racingcircuits.info/europe/portugal/estoril.html#.VCRrqfldWSo

  6. With the way the Williams team improved during 1994. Senna would most likely have won that year’s championship.

    I don’t know why. It could be the fact I am Brazilian, the fact my dad worked with Senna or just the fact I was watching the race.
    Just thinking of what happened, how fragile life is and how we never know when our time will come, really gives me goosebumps.

    Ifs and woulds will never change how history was written. But I can’t help fantasise of a World with him here.

    1. You’re right – It definitely would have been a close fight between Senna and Schumacher. Now you mention it, it’s really sad we never got to see a few seasons worth of scraps between the two, as they would have been absolutely almighty.

      If Luca is to be believed, Senna would have ended up at Ferrari. Would this have eliminated the chance of Schumacher joining? Where would he have ended up? Perhaps McLaren given the Mercedes history?

      Lots of interesting thoughts…

  7. For anybody who wants to see what the fast right hand corner they changed for 1994 looked like before, Its the 1st corner in this in-car video-

    BTW I don’t think the change was made specifically for F1 after the events of Imola, Pretty sure it was a section originally designed for the bikes as it seems to be been built in the 1994 pre-season testing-

  8. Hill’s aerobatics on Friday and deteriorating track conditions on Saturday meant he could only manage fifth.

    I believe ‘fifth’ should say ‘second’.

    When Schumacher last saw the chequered flag four weeks earlier at Spa, his victory had given him a 31-point margin in the title race.

    Should be 35 points – 31 was his margin going into Spa.

    1. Thanks, have made those changes.

  9. 1994,the beginning of a series of professional cheats by Schumacher,and the FIA let him get away with it,brilliant!

  10. @keithcollantine – would it be possible to see Senna’s results plotted on the graph as well?

    1. Senna retired in the first two races of 1994 before he perished in the third. So he wouldn’t be on the graph.

Comments are closed.