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Game, set and crash.
After going off the road on his own, Michael Schumacher ensured his first World Championship in controversial style.
AII sorts of emotions must have been running through Damon Hill's head as he crept back to the pits on the 36th lap of a scintillating Australian Grand Prix, few of them printable. After driving his heart out he had challenged Michael Schumacher every inch of the way in their World Championship fight, only for both to collide in the East Terrace. As the world waited, Hill already knew from the suspension damage he could see and feel that, though he was mobile and Schumacher no longer was, the dream was over. The German, the cause of the incident, was already World Champion.
It was a tragic shame that the great confrontation had to end the way it did, because up until then the Australian GP was one of those rare F1 races that grabs you by the throat. In qualifying there had been Nigel Mansell's 32nd pole position, followed immediately by only the third big shunt of Schumacher's career as he overdid things in the Senna Chicane trying to beat the Briton's time. In their wake. Hill had struggled to third place, unhappy with his Williams' set-up on Friday and unable to have a second crack because of rain on Saturday.
With everything at stake the atmosphere was already electric as the grid formed, and when at the start Mansell was slow away, the two Championship protagonists were left with clear road for their fight. Mansell moved to the middle of the road to try and block Schumacher as the German got off the line with minimal wheelspin. As he went to Mansell's right, clearing the Williams sufficiently to grab the lead going into the first corner, Hill was also getting underway well and slipping into second place to Mansell's left. A little further round the course, on East Terrace, Mansell went off the road temporarily, dropping from third to fifth behind Hakkinen and Barrichello.