If the Schu-macher fits then Benetton will have to wear it

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 1994, 12:00am

THE weird image department in Benetton's advertising division has been given plenty of material to work with for a new campaign courtesy of their calamity-inclined Formula One team.

The mishaps of Michael Schumacher could easily provoke a series of ads to rival the bullet-hole-in-the-T-shirt and pregnant nun approaches.

Something like Schumacher slamming into a brick wall built by the International Motoring Federation (FIA) in front of his grid position would seem particularly apt given the recent chain of events.

From the perspective of people who don't know their sump oil from elbow grease the German has been particularly hard done by. A two-race ban for, effectively, overtaking on the warm-up lap and then being disqualified for a hair's breadth breach of the rules in the Belgian Grand Prix seems akin to a prison sentence when probation would do.

While the black flag fiasco at Silverstone still appears to be harsher than harsh there is a growing body of opinion that Benetton brought the wrath of God-like FIA down on themselves.

Suspicions surrounding computer controlled start mechanisms on Schumacher's car, the alleged fuel-filler pipe infringement and wood-block violation combine to dissipate the team's assertions that they may not be paranoid but somebody's definitely out to get them.

Take the Belgian Grand Prix case. A few millimetres here and there on a piece of wood appears, on the surface, to be a trifle on a sophisticated race machine that money could not buy.

But hark to Damon Hill, Schumacher's main rival in the race for the world championship, when he says that such a close shave could be worth at least half a second a lap.

Forsaking a filter when re-fuelling could also save a vital second or so and the advantage of a good start in Grand Prix races has been proven time and time again. With milliseconds being the difference between winning and losing the temptation to cut corners, and swerve round the rules, is huge for Formula One teams.

Benetton have been caught with their designer overalls around their ankles a couple of times and it's now a case of once nabbed always suspected.

Whether or not Schumacher has been an unwilling accomplice or knowing conspirator in all this is impossible to fathom but Hill, at least, feels that ''no tears [should be] cried for Schumacher''.

The penalties imposed on him, rightly or wrongly, have certainly opened up the championship and although Hill still has a pretty tough one to climb if overall victory is to be his at least the GP scene is interesting this season.

Another debatable point is whether or not Hill's challenge will be hindered or helped by old-man Mansell rolling back into the scene. If his super ego and perfectionist ways can be accommodated while still keeping Hill ultra-competitive remains to be seen.