Allegations of cheating in the 1994 Formula One season

There were several instances of allegations of cheating in the 1994 Formula One season concerning several teams involved in the sport. One of the main allegations surrounded the Benetton team. The team were alleged to have been using illegal software to their advantage in races; however, this could not be sufficiently proven by the FIA.cite book | title = Michael Schumacher: The Rise of a Genius | first = Luc | last = Domenjoz | isbn = 0-75259-228-9 | publisher = Parragon | origyear = 2002 | pages = p. 44–47] cite web | title = Globetrotter: Rocking the boat | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gt/gt00044.html | first = Joe | last = Saward | authorlink = Joe Saward | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | date = 1994-08-11 | accessdate = 2008-08-28] There were also incidents involving other teams within the sport, most notably Ferrari and McLaren.cite book | title = The Daily Telegraph - The Formula One Years | first = Timothy | last = Collings | coauthors = Edworthy, Sarah | isbn = 1-86200-101-4 | publisher = SevenOaks | origyear = 2002 | pages = p. 256–259]

Allegations of cheating were suspected throughout the early stages of the 1994 season, with Ayrton Senna suspicious that the Benetton car was illegal. After the deaths of Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix, several technical changes were made to the cars to make them safer to drive.cite book | title = Damon Hill Grand Prix Year: The Inside Story of a Formula One Season | first = Damon | last = Hill | authorlink = Damon Hill | isbn = 0-333-62308-8 | publisher = Macmillan Publishers | origmonth = June | origyear = 1995 | pages = p. 121] Cheating allegations reignited in the summer of 1994, after a refuelling fire on Jos Verstappen's Benetton car at the German Grand Prix.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: German GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr557.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-09-02] After an investigation by Intertechnique at Benetton's team factory, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) revealed that the team had been using an illegal fuel valve, without a fuel filter, that pumped fuel into the car 12.5% faster than a normal, legal fuel valve that had a filter.cite book | title = Michael Schumacher: The Whole Story | first = Christopher | last = Hilton | isbn = 1-84425-008-3 | publisher = Haynes Publishing | origmonth = November | origyear = 2006 | pages = p. 118–128]

Background

The technical regulations for the 1994 Formula One season were announced at the 1993 Canadian Grand Prix.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1993-94 | origyear = 1993 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5715-2 | pages = p. 163] One of the major announcements was that electronic aids were to be banned from Formula One, which included power brakes and the traction control system.cite web | url = http://atlasf1.autosport.com/news/safety.html | work = Atlas F1 | publisher = Haymarket Publications | title = Safety Improvements in F1 since 1963 | accessdate = 2008-08-28] Also banned for the 1994 season was the use of ABS and active suspension.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1994-95 | origyear = 1994 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5795-0 | pages = p. 34–37] This was done as there were fears that electronic aid systems were levelling the field up, putting more emphasis on the car rather than the driver talent.cite news | title = Seven-year ban on traction control likely over | url = http://espn.go.com/auto/news/2001/0204/1062927.html | work = Reuters | publisher = ESPN.com | date = 2001-02-04 | accessdate = 2008-08-28] cite book | title = Michael Schumacher: The Whole Story | first = Christopher | last = Hilton | isbn = 1-84425-008-3 | publisher = Haynes Publishing | origmonth = November | origyear = 2006 | pages = p. 108] Some spoke out against traction control, including Ayrton Senna, who said he preferred to have more control of the car instead of having the computers drive it for him. Max Mosley, the president of Formula One's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) spoke out in favour of banning traction control, saying that the systems "could be extremely dangerous and unpredictable". Around the same time as the announcement regarding the technical regulations for the 1994 season, many in the sport were questioning the legality of active suspension, which was a key factor for it to be banned for 1994. Some in the paddock regarded the decision as an attempt to restrict Williams, as the team held a strong advantage with its active suspension system and other driver aids.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1993-94 | origyear = 1993 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5715-2 | pages = p. 184] The unraced concept of continuously variable transmission (CVT) was also banned, but it was well known that Williams had spent several years developing and testing such a system, which threatened to further increase its cars' advantage if introduced. Behind the scenes at Williams they considered the timing of the announcement by Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting as "regrettable", with some questioning if Nigel Mansell's 1992 Drivers' Championship victory would still be regarded as valid. Also introduced for the 1994 season was refuelling during races, for the first time since F1|1983. As a result, all team personnel working on the car during pit stops had to wear fire-protective clothing as a safety precaution. The FIA changed the rules to spice up the sport partially due to declining television ratings from the 1993 season compared to the 1992 season.cite book | title = Formula 1 Facts and Trivia | first = Anna | last = O'Brien | isbn = 0-75252-973-0 | publisher = Siena | origmonth = May | origyear = 1999 | pages = p. 377] It was also suggested that the rule changes could benefit the Ferrari team, as the outfit had struggled with the introduction of its driver aids, and stood to gain from the re-introduction of refuelling due to its V12 engine configuration, which was less fuel-efficient than the V10s and V8s built by its rivals.

Initial allegations

Cheating allegations were suspected almost immediately into the 1994 season at the Brazilian Grand Prix. On lap 21 of the race, Senna in the Williams who was leading the race, made a pit stop, with Michael Schumacher in the Benetton close behind. The Benetton pitcrew made a very quick stop for Schumacher, getting him out in front of Senna to lead the race. Schumacher went on to win the Grand Prix after Senna spun out of the race. This sparked speculation that Benetton were using a system to make quicker pit stops than their rivals.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Brazilian GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr549.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-08-28]

During the weekend of the Pacific Grand Prix in April, Ferrari test driver Nicola Larini (who had replaced Jean Alesi for the early part of the season), leaked to the Italian media that he had used traction control during the practice session for the race. Ferrari and Larini later denied the claims to the worldwide press. The "leak" by Larini further raised suspicions about teams using illegal aids to help them in races. Senna retired on the first lap of the race after a collision with McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen. Instead of going back to the Williams pit area, Senna opted to stand and watch the cars complete the race to see if he could hear any noises that suggested traction control was being used illegally in the other cars.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Pacific GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr549.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-08-28] Senna returned to the Williams pit area after the race suspicious that the Benetton car was illegal.

Rule changes

At the San Marino Grand Prix, both Senna and Roland Ratzenberger suffered fatal accidents.cite news | first = Brad | last = Spurgeon | title = 5 Years After Senna's Crash, Racing Is Safer — Some Say Too Safe: Imola Still Haunts Formula One | url = http://www.iht.com/articles/1999/04/30/prix.2.t_1.php | work = International Herald Tribune | publisher = The New York Times Company | date = 1999-04-30 | accessdate = 2008-08-29] After the race weekend, the FIA asked the teams that finished first, second and third in the race (Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren respectively) to provide copies of their engine management system to see if an undetected traction control system was stored in there to gain an illegal advantage.cite journal | title = May the best driver Win | url = http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14519704.200-may-the-best-driver-win.html | first = Louise | last = Dalziel | publisher = New Scientist | issue = Issue 1970 | pages = p. 26 | date = 1995-03-25 | accessdate = 2008-08-28] McLaren sent a copy of the system immediately, but Benetton failed to do so until three weeks after the San Marino race which could have allowed them to change the system in the three-week gap.

Several technical rule changes were announced by the FIA at the Monaco Grand Prix to help improve the safety of the cars.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Monaco GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr552.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-09-02] Downforce on the cars was reduced with the diffuser removed to help reduce the amount of grip available. In between the Monaco and Spanish Grands Prix, the teams tried out the revised cars in test sessions throughout the week. Several teams experienced problems with their revised cars; Ligier suffered two cracked wing mountings, while Williams noted a cracked mounting during testing at Jerez.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1994-95 | origyear = 1994 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5795-0 | pages = p. 141] The biggest incident to note was that of Pedro Lamy in a Lotus car at the Silverstone Circuit. While approaching the Bridge corner on the circuit, the rear wing on the Lotus detached itself leading to a sudden loss of downforce. The Lotus cartwheeled off the circuit at mph|170, flying through a protective fence, landing in a spectator access tunnel. Lamy was hospitalised as a result of the accident.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Spanish GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr553.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-09-02] In the week leading up to the Spanish race, Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore criticised the FIA, accusing the president Max Mosley of making "ill-considered, snap decisions" and that some of the components on the Benetton car may not have been subjected to quality control checks. In a letter sent to Mosley on May 25, Briatore also said:

The Benetton team, along with Williams, McLaren, Lotus, Pacific, Simtek, Jordan, Footwork Arrows and Ligier debated the issue in the Williams motorhome to discuss the technical regulations. More changes came into force for the Canadian and German races, with the introductions of "pump fuel" (more closely related to commercially-available fuel, slightly reducing horsepower and engine performance) and the "plank" (a piece of wood running along the underside of the chassis that is monitored for excessive wear, increasing ride height and thus decreasing grip).cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Canadian GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr554.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-09-02]

Renewed allegations

Allegations of cheating reignited at the French Grand Prix, when, starting from third on the grid Schumacher overtook both of the Williams drivers, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell, leading into the first corner of the race. This raised suspicions, once again, that Benetton were using traction control. While commentating on the race for Eurosport with John Watson and Allard Kalff, Williams driver David Coulthard, who was replaced by Mansell for the race, stated that Schumacher's start reminded him of the type of starts from the 1993 season when traction control was legal. [cite book | title = Damon Hill Grand Prix Year: The Inside Story of a Formula One Season | first = Damon | last = Hill | authorlink = Damon Hill | isbn = 0-333-62308-8 | publisher = Macmillan Publishers | origmonth = June | origyear = 1995 | pages = p. 152] Hill was on pole position for the British Grand Prix after qualifying fastest. During the parade lap on the way to the starting grid, Schumacher, starting second, illegally overtook Hill. As a result of his illegal maneuver, Schumacher was given a five-second penalty at 14:27 local time, 27 minutes after the original incident. Schumacher never came into the pit lane to serve the penalty when originally given the penalty, and on lap 21, Schumacher was given the black flag. Schumacher stayed out on the circuit while Benetton team boss Briatore, along with Benetton technical director Tom Walkinshaw went to discuss it with Race Director Roland Bruynseraede, arguing that they had not been properly informed of the punishment given.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: British GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr556.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2008-09-11] Schumacher eventually served the time penalty on lap 27, finishing the race in second position behind Hill.cite book | title = Damon Hill Grand Prix Year: The Inside Story of a Formula One Season | first = Damon | last = Hill | authorlink = Damon Hill | isbn = 0-333-62308-8 | publisher = Macmillan Publishers | origmonth = June | origyear = 1995 | pages = p. 162–165]

After the British Grand Prix, Schumacher and Benetton were fined $25,000 for breaching the sporting regulations, with the FIA choosing to open an investigation surrounding the events at the race. Joan Villadelprat, Benetton's team manager, stated that although they made a mistake at the race, the race stewards also made a mistake as Benetton were not notified within 15 minutes of the offence as specified by the regulations. It took 27 minutes for the decision of the stewards to reach Benetton.

The German Grand Prix brought up more controversy leading to further allegations of cheating by Benetton. During a pit stop, the Benetton car of Jos Verstappen was set on fire during refuelling as the fuel nozzle would not enter the car properly. Verstappen suffered minor burns, with four of the Benetton mechanics also burned. Intertechnique, the company which manufactures the refuelling equipment for all the teams, were delegated by the governing body to examine the Benetton factory shortly after the German race. After Intertechnique examined the factory, a statement was released by the FIA. In the statement, the FIA said that "the [fuel] valve was slow to close because of the presence of a foreign body" and that a filter designed to eliminate any possible risk of fire had been removed. An estimate by an outside party stated that the without the filter, fuel flowed into the car at 12.5% faster than usual, saving one second per pit stop. Benetton issued a press release shortly after, announcing that they had contacted an "independent company specialising in accident investigation" to give opinions on the refuelling method. They also announced that a copy of the FIA report had been sent to Mariott Harrison, their legal advisers. The FIA announced, as a result of their findings, that Benetton would be summoned to a World Motor Sport Council meeting on October 19. On August 11, three days before the Hungarian Grand Prix, Intertechnique representatives said that no request had been sent from Benetton to remove the filter from the nozzle and that they would never authorise Benetton to remove the nozzle. Benetton made a press release on August 13, stating that there was a fault in the equipment provided by Intertechnique.

Before the German's appeal from his disqualification at the British Grand Prix, he was disqualified from the Belgian Grand Prix as his Benetton had excessive wear of the plank. The FIA allowed the plank to be ten millimetres deep, with a allowance of one millimetre meaning that the plank must be a minimum of nine millimetres to be deemed legal. A majority of the plank on Schumacher's car measured 7.4 millimetres, 1.6 under the legal tolerance. Benetton, along with Schumacher, claimed that the plank had excessive wear due to a spin by the German during the race.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Belgian GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr559.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2009-09-18] [cite book | title = Damon Hill Grand Prix Year: The Inside Story of a Formula One Season | first = Damon | last = Hill | authorlink = Damon Hill | isbn = 0-333-62308-8 | publisher = Macmillan Publishers | origmonth = June | origyear = 1995 | pages = p. 207] Benetton launched an immediate appeal, with a World Motor Sport Council meeting set for September 5.cite book | title = Michael Schumacher: The Whole Story | first = Christopher | last = Hilton | isbn = 1-84425-008-3 | publisher = Haynes Publishing | origmonth = November | origyear = 2006 | pages = p. 141–142] The allegations of Benetton cheating throughout the summer of 1994 led to rumours of Schumacher quitting the team. The team released a statement denying the rumours, stating that Schumacher would complete the season. [cite news | title = Sports People: Auto Racing; Benetton team stands behind Schumacher | url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE3D7123BF936A2575AC0A962958260 | work = The New York Times | publisher = The New York Times Company | date = 1994-09-15 | accessdate = 2008-08-28]

FIA action

Schumacher and Benetton, along with three other drivers, were summoned to a FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting on July 26 to discuss his black flag at the British Grand Prix. It was announced at the meeting that Schumacher was disqualified from the race, thus losing his six points he earned from finishing second in the race, and in addition he was handed a two race ban. This meant Schumacher would miss his home race, the German Grand Prix, along with the Hungarian Grand Prix, unless Schumacher chose to appeal the decision. In addition to the punishment handed to Schumacher, Benetton were fined a total of $600,000—$500,000 for not listening to the Stewards' at the British race, and $100,000 for not sending copies of their engine management system when immediately requested. At the council meeting, the governing body also announced that no evidence had been found to suggest Benetton were using illegal electronic systems, but did say that an illegal system did exist, which could be activated at any time. Benetton and Schumacher appealed the decision made by the FIA, allowing the German to race at his home Grand Prix.cite book | title = Damon Hill Grand Prix Year: The Inside Story of a Formula One Season | first = Damon | last = Hill | authorlink = Damon Hill | isbn = 0-333-62308-8 | publisher = Macmillan Publishers | origmonth = June | origyear = 1995 | pages = p. 173]

Schumacher's appeal regarding the two race ban was rejected at the FIA International Court of Appeal, with the FIA opting to keep his two race ban intact, meaning he would miss the Italian and Portuguese races. JJ Lehto replaced Schumacher for the two races.cite web | title = Grand Prix Results: Italian GP, 1994 | url = http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr560.html | work = GrandPrix.com | publisher = Inside F1 | accessdate = 2009-09-18]

The World Motor Sport Council hearing surrounding Benetton and the fuel fire at Hockenheim was brought forward to September 7, with the disqualification of Schumacher at the Belgian Grand Prix also moved to the same day. The night before the hearing, however, the FIA were informed by Larrousse, one of the other teams competing in the championship, that they were informed by Intertechnique in May to remove the filter from the refuelling rig, a point Flavio Briatore made in prior meetings that all but four teams had removed the filter. The FIA in the hearing judged that Benetton had not tried to cheat by removing the filter from the refuelling rig, but the governing body did say that the team removed it without authorisation from Intertechnique to try and gain an advantage. Thus the team were found guilty of the offence, but escaped punishment due to this valid plea in mitigation. Schumacher's appeal against his disqualification at the Belgian Grand Prix, however, was rejected by the FIA. After the hearing, Benetton released a statement which said:

quote|The Mild Seven Benetton Ford Formula 1 Team is very pleased with the result of today's hearing in Paris, which has completely cleared its good name from any allegations of cheating. Whilst the team may not have been able to satisfy the World Council as to the precise cause of the wear of the skid board it was delighted that the FIA stated in clear terms that there was no question of the team cheating.

The team were also completely cleared of the charge of removing the fuel filter illegally. This should put an end to unfounded and wild speculations in the press that the removal of the filter caused the fire at Hockenheim. Before the hearing the FIA conceded that it was not alleging that the removal of the filter had caused the fire. In giving the World Council's decision, the President [Max Mosley] stated that its unanimous view was that the filter was removed in complete good faith and that it would be inappropriate to impose any penalty whatsoever.|A Benetton press release in the aftermath of the decision made by the FIA regarding the German Grand Prix refuelling fire.

At the same hearing, the McLaren team was found to be in breach of the technical regulations, specifically over a fully-automated gearbox upchange device in the transmission system that was confirmed to have been run in Mika Häkkinen's car during the San Marino Grand Prix.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1994-95 | origyear = 1994 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5795-0 | pages = p. 207] The FIA's discovery of this device occurred when McLaren test driver Philippe Alliot, who had taken a race seat at Larrousse mid-season, commented on the fact that the cars of his new team did not possess such a facility.cite book | last = Henry | first = Alan | authorlink = Alan Henry | title = Autocourse 1994-95 | origyear = 1994 | origmonth = December | publisher = Hazelton Publishing | isbn = 1-8745-5795-0 | pages = p. 59] The system was found to contravene the regulations and was duly banned—as was the potential of an automated downchange facility—but McLaren went unpunished, as the FIA was satisfied that the team believed it to be legal when fitting it to the car under its interpretation of the regulations.

Legacy

Timeline

*Weekend of the 1993 Canadian Grand Prix - Technical regulations for the 1994 Formula One season announced by the FIA.
*March 27, 1994 - Michael Schumacher won the opening round of the 1994 season. A quick pit stop carried out by his Benetton team during the race sparked rumours of cheating.
*April 30, 1994 - Roland Ratzenberger killed instantly in the qualifying session for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
*May 1, 1994 - Ayrton Senna killed after a fatal accident at the Tamburello corner during the San Marino race. Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren asked to provide copies of their engine management system. Benetton failed to send a copy until three weeks after the original notification from the FIA.
*May/June 1994 - A raft of technical changes made to improve the safety of the cars.
*July 10, 1994 - Michael Schumacher overtakes Damon Hill illegally on the parade lap on the British Grand Prix, and as a result was given a five-second penalty. After initally ignoring the penalty, race control gave him the black flag, before eventually coming in on lap 27. Benetton and Schumacher fined $25,000 for breach of sporting regulations at the British race.
*July 26, 1994 - At a FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, Schumacher has the six points he earned at the British Grand Prix taken away from him, and is given a two race ban to be served immediately. Benetton were fined $500,000 for ignoring the Stewards at the British race and $100,000 for not sending copies of their engine management system when requested. Benetton and Schumacher immediately appealed the fines and race ban imposed on them.
*July 31, 1994 - During a refuelling pit stop at the German Grand Prix, Jos Verstappen's Benetton was set on fire as the fuel nozzle would not enter the car properly. Verstappen, along with four Benetton mechanics were burned.

References


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