Jos Verstappen has accused Michael Schumacher of cheating in 1994 by using illegal electronic driver aids to win the Formula 1 World Championship.
Verstappen was team-mate to Schumacher at Benneton for 10 races of 1994. He never matched the German for pace, scored only 10 points from 10 races (while Schumacher won 8 races and the title) and was replaced by Johnny Herbert before the end of the season. In fairness to Verstappen, it was his first season in Formula 1, and he was in a top team with a steep learning curve. He would not have been expected to match a team-mate who already had 2 full seasons under his belt.
Now Verstappen has suggested that Schumacher found his edge by using electronic driver aids, which were banned by the FIA for the 1994 season. This is not the first time Benneton have been accused of cheating during 1994. Ayrton Senna was convinced that Schumacher’s car was using traction control, and during the season there were also accusations that Benneton were using a launch control system. Both traction control and launch control were illegal.
Benneton’s car was checked for launch control, and the system was found on the car. However, there was no evidence that it had been used, and so no action was taken by the FIA. No action was ever taken against the team for use of other electronic aids, which suggests that they were never found. Considering that the cars go through rigorous scrutineering before and after every race, it seems unlikely that Benneton would have succeeded in hiding illegal driver aids for the entire season.
Verstappen has suggested that he and Schumacher did not have equal cars, as an explanation for his inability to match his team-mate. He said: “I kept thinking: this can’t be done! I braked at the limit and went as hard as possible into the corners. Schumacher was able to do things and not me. There was something wrong.”
Did he never consider that Schumacher was just better than him? Most Formula 1 drivers of the last 20 years have had to come to that conclusion at some point. Schumacher is now a seven-time World Champion, and Verstappen never managed to win a race. There really is no need for further comparison.
Lotus Renault have announced that Romain Grosjean will occupy their second race seat in 2012. The French driver will partner 2007 champion Kimi Räikkönen.
The announcement comes after weeks of speculation regarding Lotus Renault’s driver line-up. Robert Kubica recently announced that he would not be available for the beginning of the season, which raised the question of who would drive the second car. Grosjean’s appointment means that 2011 Renault drivers Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna are now searching for teams for 2012.
Grosjean has driven in Formula 1 before, when he partnered Fernando Alonso at Renault for the last 7 races of 2009. Grosjean did not impress during that season, and was dropped for 2010. He subsequently competed in the FIA GT1 series briefly before winning the 2010 Auto GP (previously called Formula 3000) championship. In 2011, he comfortably won the GP2 championship, showing that he has developed strongly as a driver since his first attempt at Formula 1.
The past 2 seasons have been quite tumultuous for Lotus Renault. They have used 4 drivers (Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov, Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna), which has not been ideal. The team needs continuity to develop and that is something that has definitely been lacking recently.
Lotus Renault have gone for a mix of youth and experience for 2012. Kimi Räikkönen has been around for a long time and won a World Championship. Romain Grosjean has proven himself in the lower single-seater categories. It looks like a combination that can take Lotus Renault forward, as long as they put in the time to make it work.