Benetton Ford B194 – (510942705):
Rory Byrne designed the Benetton B194 Formula One car for use in the 1994 season. Its predecessors, the B192 and B193, played a large part in the development of the car, and it was powered by the Ford Zetec-R V8 engine. Another key talking point regarding the car with hindsight is its sponsor, Mild Seven. This is a Japanese tobacco company, and it stuck with Benetton for a number of years. The association continued after Benetton was absorbed by Renault. It was to remain with Renault F1 until the conclusion of the 2009 season, but due to European Tobacco Regulations, the company ended their association with Renault at the end of 2006. Tobacco company sponsorships remain a hot topic of controversy to this day, in the world of Formula One.
In the years prior, electronic driver aids had started to become more and more prevalent. Therefore, before the ’94 season, many of the electronic aids were banned. This meant that the B194 had to be completely overhauled and redesigned with the new rules in mind.
The B194 was extremely light, weighing it at just a little over 515 kilograms, and therefore it was immensely nimble. At the hands of the ever-talented Michael Schumacher, the B194 handled well and was very competitive. It also drove well on turn-heavy tracks, unlike the early Williams FW16 which proved difficult to manoeuvre due to their dependency on electronic driving aids in the seasons prior.
Michael Schumacher’s B194 remained the most competitive driver and car combination throughout the season, until Williams introduced a B-spec car at the German Grand Prix. The B194 was phenomenal in the hands of Schumacher, and after the unfortunate death of his main rival Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix, Schumacher won six of the opening seven races of the season. Other teams actually speculated on the legality of the B194, thanks to the high competitiveness of such an underpowered car. The FIA launched an investigation into the B194, and they discovered a launch control system in the cars’ onboard computer systems, but no traction control. By the end of the investigation, the governing body couldn’t prove whether or not the systems had actually been used, so all the complaints were dropped. Schumacher himself was also subject to some controversy at the time, after he had been disqualified from both the British Grand Prix and what was at the time, the Belgian Grand Prix. Damon Hill capitalised on this, and as the two clashed in the final race, they were separated by a mere point. Schumacher would go on to finish second, with Damon Hill less than a second behind him in third.
Schumacher commented years later that the B194 was actually quite problematic to drive, as the rear end was ridiculously hard to control.