The Ferrari team, which took part in the 1994 Formula 1 World Championship, had a clear objective. After three very difficult seasons, the team wanted to get back on the top step of the podium, and the success in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, run at the old Hockenheim, a track characterised above all for its long straights heading in to the Black Forest, gave hope to those in the Prancing Horse garage. On Saturday afternoon, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi locked out the front row of the grid with the Austrian in pole position alongside his teammate. The 412 T1s made the most of the Ferrari engine’s power while the long straights did not show up the aerodynamic limitations of the car designed by John Barnard.
The qualifying result, however, was only a number, while the race was a different story. No one could have imagined that the Grand Prix would be a real elimination race with only eight cars seeing the chequered flag.
The first elimination came at the start: Berger and Alesi capitalised on their qualifying positions getting away in first and second, but behind them was chaos with a series of collisions which resulted in eleven drivers retiring within the first two laps. Alesi was soon added to the list of retirees, forced to give up due to an electrical problem. Berger however began a long battle with Michael Schumacher.
The German at the wheel of the Benetton was very fast in the corners but Berger made the most of the Ferrari V12 engine’s power on the straights, fending off every attack. Halfway through the race, Schumacher was forced to retire when his engine failed, a retirement which came only a few laps after his teammate Jos Verstappen had also stopped. The Dutchman retired after his car caught fire during refuelling, an image which was shown around the world and that fans still recall to this day. The young driver got away with just a few minor burns.
There were no problems however for Berger, who completed the 45 laps of the race with almost a minute’s advantage over Olivier Panis and Eric Bernard in the Ligiers, who were back on a Grand Prix podium for the first time in nine years.
For Scuderia Ferrari it was also the end of a long nightmare: after almost four years and 58 Grands Prix without a win, the Maranello team was once again victorious in a Formula 1 Grand Prix, ending a drought which had lasted since the Spanish Grand Prix of 1990.
The huge celebrations of the men in red under the German podium were understandable and were testimony to the hard work put in to match the teams at the top. Speaking to Italian television during the lap of honour, Jean Alesi was moved and also felt the victory was in part his, because it had been a team effort and he looked forward to future races. “This victory is also a little bit mine, in spite of my retirement today, but I want to win the next race that Ferrari wins and make them play the Italian national anthem.” It was two years since Jean Todt’s arrival and at last, the French manager was able to taste victory for the first time in his tenure.