"But these things seemed to be so far away from me that I never thought about them. And suddenly we have an Imola race, and things change completely for me. I didn't know how to handle it."
During the following week he seriously pondered retirement at age 25. "The time between Imola and the first time I sat in the car again, I was very close to stopping," he says. "The way Senna died—it happened to the best driver and the best team. Ayrton was Number 1. No doubt about it. And suddenly he was not there anymore. I was really struggling to...to...what can I say? To come back into my life."
He climbed back in the car two weeks later at Monaco, having decided that if he felt any different, he would quit on the spot. But he felt the same way he always had. He continued.
"Without Ayrton last season, the championship would not have been worth the same as usual," Schumacher says, "except for the way the championship developed, with me not being able to get points from four races. Being disqualified, being banned, the championship again became worth something to me. I thought, Now I'm going to show these guys what I can do."
After the deaths in Imola and an accident in Monaco that caused severe injury to Karl Wedlinger, the FIA suddenly and drastically altered its rules in the name of safety. Formula One owners howled that the drastic changes wouldn't work and might even increase the danger. Briatore led the revolt, firing off a letter charging FIA president Max Mosley with incompetence.
It was not long afterward that Schumacher's travails with the FIA began. It started when he briefly passed Hill during the parade lap of the British Grand Prix. Officials black-flagged him after the race got under way, meaning he was to come into the pits for a stop-and-go penalty. A driver customarily waits for the order from his team before obeying the flag. The order never came, so Schumacher raced on. He finished second, but officials later stripped him of his six Grand Prix points for the race.
In Belgium seven weeks later Schumacher won the race but was disqualified when inspectors examined the undercarriage of his car and discovered that the wooden plank that had been added as one of the new safety measures—it raises the car's bottom and slows the racer down in the turns—was not of the required thickness. Officials, though they agreed that the plank might have been worn down during Schumacher's brief shunt over a curb during the race, disqualified him anyway.
A week later, citing the British Grand Prix violation that had taken place almost two months earlier, the FIA hit Schumacher with a two-race suspension. He thought again about quitting, "just because of the way Formula One works. I knew that other drivers had been banned for one race, but not two. It looked very...I don't know how to say this in English...awkward." He considered switching to Indy Cars. "But I thought of this for only about half an hour. Then I became realistic again."
He clinched the title in the last race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, when he cut off Hill, inadvertently he says, forcing both cars from the race. Since neither earned points that day, Schumacher's 92-91 lead over Hill stood.
When the 1995 season began, with the Grand Prix of Brazil on March 26, Schumacher's troubles with the FIA started again. He won the race, only to have his points stripped afterward because the fuel in his Benetton-Renault didn't match the chromatographic fingerprint of the gasoline his team had earlier told the FIA that Schumacher would be using. Nobody said that the gas gave Schumacher an advantage. It wasn't illegal. It was just different, because of a shipping error by the team's fuel supplier, Elf.