Michael roars to top spot

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 October, 1995, 12:00am

DESPITE a spectacular season by tennis star Steffi Graf - with successes in the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - the year in German sports has been highlighted by Formula One driver Michael Schumacher.

His victory in the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring, at the weekend, moved Schumacher 27 points ahead of arch-rival Damon Hill in the World Drivers' Championship standings.

The win almost assures him of his second successive title with only three races left.

Last season, he became the first German to win the world title, setting off a tide of Michael-mania in his homeland.

The driving ace proclaimed the 1995 season would be free of the controversy that plagued the Benetton team the previous year.

Schumacher started the season with a bang when he roared to victory in the Brazil Grand Prix. But his vision of a controversy-free season was short-lived.

He and second-placed finisher David Coulthard were disqualified for using illegal fuel. After appealing against the decision, they were reinstated.

Following Damon Hill's wins in Argentina and San Marino, Schumacher stormed back to win three of the next four grand prix in Spain, Monte Carlo and France.

As the circuit headed to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, it was a case of deja vu. In the previous season in Australia, Hill and Schumacher crashed in the final race.

Then, at Silverstone, racing neck-and-neck under wet conditions, Hill appeared to ram Schumacher in the 45th lap, knocking them both out of the race and giving Briton Johnny Herbert his first career win.

The crash stirred up ill-feelings between the pair and resulted in a war of words in the papers. But it was Hill who made a peace offering. He asked Schumacher to ride with him in a parade prior to the German Grand Prix.

The diplomatic gesture was the start of an excellent week for Schumacher who cruised to an easy victory in the German Grand Prix (Hill spun out on the first lap), becoming the first national to win.

Three days later, the 26-year-old racing champion married girlfriend Corrina Betsch before 100 people in Kerpan, near Cologne.

In the Hungarian Grand Prix that followed his honeymoon, Schumacher had to retire after three laps with engine failure.

After the race, Ferrari ended speculation when it confirmed that Schumacher would be driving for the team in the 1996-97 season.