MATTERS OF MOMENT, December 1994

The crowning Irony

HAD the lead battle in the Australian Grand Prix lasted the full distance, the chances are that international motor racing would finally have had something to celebrate this year. If Michael Schumacher had pipped Damon Hill by a point in those circumstances, it would have provided a fitting conclusion to the season.

If. . .

As it is, the man who has won most races is champion and Damon Hill has proved beyond all reasonable doubt, that he is a valid world championship contender.

That much would still have been true had Schumacher beaten him over 81 laps, rather than 35.

It is futile arguing about the rights and wrongs of the collision. It happened, and thus was the championship settled a tawdry conclusion to an unsatisfactory year. (It is by no means the first time that the title has been decided in contentious circumstances. The collisions between Prost and Senna at Suzuka in 1989 and, again. in 1990 remain clear in the memory. In each case, these incidents decided the destiny of that year’s world championship title. Hardly what you’d call sport, but that’s the way it often is nowadays.)

In the aftermath of the incident, there was at least one thread of good news. You would never have gauged, from his reaction, that Damon Hill had just been barged out of contention for the world title. His response was calm and measured, his dignity admirable.

It was a welcome sign that there is still room for sportsmanship in Formula One. It was an example that others would do well to follow.

Ironically, it meant that Damon emerged with possibly more credit than he would have done had he actually taken the title, which just goes to show how far motor racing’s standards have slipped in recent years. S A