Calls for Michael Schumacher to be stripped of championship

Felipe Massa's legal challenge to take Lewis Hamilton's 2008 world championship has sparked a contentious debate.

Amidst ongoing debates surrounding the legitimacy of championship victories in Formula 1, the career of legendary driver Michael Schumacher is facing renewed scrutiny. 

The subject of this scrutiny is Schumacher’s 1994 World Championship victory, a title that some believe should be reevaluated, akin to the controversy surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 triumph, which recently prompted a legal dispute.

Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s comments earlier this year rekindled a long-standing dispute regarding the 2008 World Championship. 

The dispute revolves around Felipe Massa’s dissatisfaction with the outcome, particularly the contentious Singapore Grand Prix. 

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During that race, Massa, who had started from pole position, finished a disappointing 13th after Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr.’s deliberate crash prompted a Safety Car period that allowed Fernando Alonso, Piquet’s teammate, to clinch victory. 

Massa subsequently lost the championship by a single point at the dramatic season finale in Brazil, with his non-scoring result in Singapore playing a pivotal role in the final standings.

Drawing parallels with this controversy, Michael Schumacher secured his first World Championship in 1994 under similarly dramatic circumstances. 

At the Australian Grand Prix that year, Schumacher collided with his Williams rival, Damon Hill, leading to both drivers retiring from the race. 

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With neither Schumacher nor Hill able to add to their points tally in Adelaide, Schumacher clinched the title by a single point.

Schumacher’s career, marked by an unparalleled level of success, included two championship wins with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, followed by a historic five consecutive titles with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004. 

His accomplishments firmly established him as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. 

However, Schumacher’s career was not without its share of controversies, including a deliberate collision with Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 title decider and the infamous “Rascasse-gate” incident in 2006, during which he parked his car on the track to hinder rivals from challenging for pole position.

In a recent interview with Swiss-German publication Blick, renowned Formula 1 journalist Roger Benoit openly questioned Schumacher’s status as a seven-time World Champion. 

Benoit asserted that Schumacher should be regarded as a six-time champion, suggesting that the 1994 title should be reconsidered.

When asked if he considered Schumacher the greatest racing driver of all time, Benoit responded, “As a six-time World Champion, he certainly belongs in the top five.” 

Pressed further on why he classified Schumacher as a six-time champion, Benoit explained, “Of course, I know that he was World Champion seven times.

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“But the 1994 title should actually be taken away from him because he only won it because of his foul on Damon Hill.”

Schumacher, who retired from Formula 1 for the first time at the end of 2006, made a largely unsuccessful comeback with Mercedes between 2010 and 2012. 

During this period, Lewis Hamilton was chosen as his replacement by the Brackley-based team. Schumacher has remained out of the public eye since a skiing accident in December 2013, which resulted in a serious brain injury.