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F1 Legend Michael Schumacher's Debut Grand Prix: Spa-Francorchamps 1991

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Michael Schumacher Testing the Jordan in 1991
Credit: Wikipedia

Legendary careers all have to start somewhere. Michael Schumacher had a debut not exactly suitable for the greatest F1 driver of all time. That didn't mean he didn't still impress everybody in the pit paddock. It happened on August 25th 1991 after a driver for the Jordan-Ford team found himself in legal trouble.

Gachot Gets Arrested and Schumacher Gets Signed

In 1991 Jordan-Ford F1 Driver Bertrand Gachot was in a traffic accident in London. An argument broke out and Gachot ended up spraying a cab driver with CS Gas.[1] This ended up getting Gachot arrested and was no longer able to compete for Jordan.[1] As a result 22-Year Old Michael Schumacher signed to take Gachot's seat at 11th Round of the championship the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. At the time Schumacher was a relative unknown to those in the Formula 1 series.[2]

At the time Schumacher seemed like a strange choice compared to a more experienced replacement driver. Part of the motive for signing Schumacher was that he raced for Mercedes in the sportscar series. Mercedes who were eager to get involved in Formula 1 so they gave the Jordan team a cash incentive to sign the promising driver.

Schumacher's Qualifying Laps Turn Some Heads

Schumacher's qualified with a lap seven-tenths faster than his teammate Andrea De Cesaris.[3] No small feat considering that De Cesaris had been racing in Formula 1 for eleven years and Schumacher for less than a week.[3] The car telemetry showed Schumacher kept his foot on the accelerator through the high-speed left-handed Blanchimont turn considered one of the most feared in Formula 1[2][4]

At the end of the sessions Schumacher had qualified 7th on the grid. The crew of the Jordan-Ford team were in disbelief as it matched their season high for a qualifying place.[5] This was an amazing accomplishment for a rookie driver. Nobody could have predicted that the young man would have a career that even exceeded expectation of greatness from this qualifying performance.

The Clutch Spoils the Race

On the Sunday morning warm ups Schumacher improved even more. He was now showing as the fourth fastest driver on the track after Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, and Riccardo Patrese. It seemed like at this point the rookie driver was capable of anything. Unfortunately his lack of experience would finally catch up with him.

At the start of the race Schumacher made an aggressive move to get to fifth on the grid. In doing so he also strained his clutch with a heavy full race fuel load.[2] Schumacher's car retired unceremoniously during the first lap. The clutch failure was likely due to his lack of experience racing a Formula 1 car with a full fuel load. Although the Jordan-Ford had performed questionable all year as De Cesaris' car also retired from the Belgium Grand Prix.[2]

Schumacher's Career Following His Debut

Following the 1991 season Schumacher signed with the more competitive Benetton team.[6] He would win two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.[6]

Schumacher would go on to win a total of seven championships. This included five championships consecutively between 2000 and 2005 while racing for Ferrari.[6] He won a staggering total of 91 Grand Prix which is equal to winning everything single race for more then five and a half seasons.[6] Schumacher also had a total of 221 points finishes which is equal to finishing in the points every race for almost fourteen years.

Michael Schumacher's legendary career all started at a single race in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 1991.

Schumacher's 1991 Jordan-Ford
Credit: Wikipedia
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Bibliography

  1. "F1 Biography: The Strange Case of Bertrand Gachot." Formula 1 Blog. 1/03/2015 <Web >
  2. "20 Years On - Schumacher's Spectacular Spa Debut." Formula 1. 1/03/2015 <Web >
  3. "Moments in time - The Belgiam Grand Prix." Formula 1. 1/03/2015 <Web >
  4. "Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps." Wikipedia. 1/03/2015 <Web >
  5. "1991 Belgium Grand Prix." Wikipedia. 1/03/2015 <Web >
  6. "Michael Schumacher." Wikipedia. 1/03/2015 <Web >

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