F1 flashback: Yes, it really is 20 years since…

This week marks 20 years since Michael Schumacher’s only Formula 1 title with Renault power in a year in which the French manufacturer utterly decimated its rivals to a degree almost unheard of in the sport.
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The date: Sunday 22 October 1995. The race: the Pacific Grand Prix held at the twisting Aida circuit in Japan (the second and last time it would host a GP). The result: 1 Michael Schumacher; 2 David Coulthard; 3 Damon Hill.

It was a result that became all too familiar for the opposition that year as Renault-powered drivers dominated. In total a staggering 16 of the 1995 season’s 17 grands prix were won by cars propelled by Renault’s legendary RS7 3.0 V10 engine.

Nine of those victories were achieved by Schumacher in his Benetton-Renault. Four went the way of Hill in his Williams-Renault and one to his team-mate Coulthard as they finish second and third in the drivers’ standings.

But perhaps the two most popular wins of the season were achieved by Benetton-Renault’s ‘other driver’ Johnny Herbert for whom the door at both Silverstone (Britain) and Monza (Italy) following controversial clashes between Schumacher and Hill.

But it had been the European GP held at Germany’s Nurburgring in early October that had effectively sealed Schumacher the title. Roared on by his home fans the German made up close to half a minute to pass Jean Alesi’s Ferrari for the win in the closing stages while arch enemy Hill crashed out.

As F1 jetted off to the other side of the world, Schumacher knew that all he needed was a fourth place finish in Aida to be sure of the F1 drivers’ crown for the second time in his career. He qualified third fastest for the race behind Coulthard and Hill but during the race he and Benetton out-foxed their rivals by switching strategies – to three pit stops for tyres. By being able to run faster on newer tyres in between stops Schumacher was eventually able to come out ahead for his eighth win of the season – a result more than good enough to guarantee him the title with the Japanese and Australian grands prix still to go…

The season ended with Hill, Coulthard and Herbert finishing second, third and fourth in the points table meaning Renault-powered drivers filled the top four positions in the final championship standings.

Benetton-Renault and Williams-Renault also finished first and second in the Constructors’ table – combined their points totals were greater than those of every other team put together.

Schumacher would leave Benetton at the end of the season for a decade of success with Ferrari but Renault – this time with Williams – would still roost in F1 for the next two seasons as Hill and then Jacques Villeneuve lifted the 1996 and 1997 drivers’ crowns respectively.