I had posted this in April of last year. But now with Michael Schumacher's 20th Anniversary of his debut in Spa. This post tells a lot about his first race in F1.Here is how Schumi got the drive of Spa:
He improved throughout the weekend. Started the race on 7th position and then overtook 2 cars went to fifth position and then his car broke down.
Michael was not hyped up prior to his debut like some young drivers are already before they arrive (eg. Montoya). In fact, hardly even anybody knew his name because it wasn't typical to take drivers from sporstcars to F1. Like today, team bosses would rather take F3000 drivers or maybe F3 drivers. That was also the reason why Frentzen left Mercedes' sportscars programme for a seat in F3000.
Michael however stayed with Mercedes and that ironically made him an F1 driver quicker than F3000 did with Frentzen! Michael was taking part in the 1991 C Group sportscar World Championship when his manager, Willi Weber got an info about Gachot being jailed and Jordan needing a driver. He phoned and faxed a lot until he got through to Eddie Jordan and offered him the services of Michael. Jordan was like: "Who the heck is Michael Schumacher?"
But Jordan decided to give him a try. They gave him a test in Silverstone and they were impressed. Michael lapped quicker immedtaiely than anybody before in that Jordan car! Jordan said after his first testing in Silverstone that the race engineer couldn’t believe the lap times. He said that those are the times they had never seen, and they thought that,Schumi found a shortcut. During those 40 laps,Schumi broke the lap record of Jordan in Silverstone. It was a short test and Michael was about to thrown into deep water right away the next week in the Belgian GP. Jordan asked his manager if Michael knew Spa and Weber replied "of course", but it wasn't true. Michael never drove before in Spa.
Here are a couple of quotes on the 1991 Spa weekend from Timothy Collings' book: 'Schumacher - The life of the new Formula One Champion'
The facts from forix.com
Here is how Schumi did in his first ever F1 weekend
In First free practice: (11) 32 M.Schumacher Jordan/Ford 1'55.322 4.979 216.645
In 2nd free practice: (5) 32 M.Schumacher Jordan/Ford 1'51.071 1.108 224.937
In 1st qualifying: (8) 32 M.Schumacher Jordan/Ford 1'53.290 4.190 220.531
In 2nd qualifying: (6) 32 M.Schumacher Jordan/Ford 1'51.212 3.401 224.652
In Warm up: (4) 32 M.Schumacher Jordan/Ford 1'56.986 1.775 213.564
In the race he had a DNF.
"It was the confidence with which he performed as much as what he did which impressed. Immediately, he was described as arrogant, Teutonic, super-confident or cool. It was hard for his contemporaries and critics to accept what he did. His teammate Andrea de Cesaris was pushed beyond his own normal limits. For everyone, it was hard to believe that this boyish-looking slim-as-a-wisp driver could achieve such times in such a confident fashion. His aloofness, his remoteness, his celf-centered confidence made it worse and virtually every reporter in the paddock who came into contact with him was to be intrigued. This German boy, who came from sportscars, was blasting a hole through the Formula One estabilishment, handling himself with ease in and out of the car and oozing confidence. What made it even more difficult to accept was the simple fact that it was all natural. Yes, he was really that good.
'On Friday, I never tried Eau Rouge flat. I nearly braked and at first I took it in fifth gear and then in sixth. That was a problem, to get used to a part of the circuit like this where you can do it flat, but without experience so you do do it slowly, step by step,' Schumacher recalled later. 'With my first set of qualifiers, I was just on my lap when Eric van de Poele went off and practice was stopped. The second time I tried with the same set of tyres and Prost blocked my lap. He was starting his quick lap. I braked at the limit for me, but he braked a bit too early for me and there were only two possibilities. Crash into him or use the escape road... I thought it was better to use it.'
It was a measure of the stunning effect of Schumacher's qualifying performance at Spa (seventh on the grid for his first race on arguably the world's most daunting Grand Prix circuit) that many people refused to beleive or accept it. One was Schumacher's veteran Italian teammate Andrea de Cesaris. 'Andrea was distraught at the end of that qualifying,' said Phillips. 'He was just schocked. "I know I didn't drive well, but one and a half seconds!" he said. "It's not possible. Not possible."
'There were some very interesting points, again, which struck me. One was that on a particular part of the circuit, Andrea was in quandary. If he kept it in fifth gear all the way through the section, the car got very high on revs and very nervous. And he said "If I try in sixth gear then, likewise, the car bogs down." He was talking about the bit where the track comes from down the top of the circuit, where you come into the first one in fifth and then take the second part in sixth and, obviously, to change gear in the middle of it was difficult... I said to Michael, in the debrief: "Do you have the same problem?" He said, "Well, I did for three laps and then I realised that what I do is go into it in sixth gear and I just left-foot brake and it just steadies the car in the middle and then I just take both corners in sixth." And he had not even mentioned it. He had just worked it out all for himself. For him, it was perfectly natural. He was simply driving the car.
'There was no issue. He had not come in and said "Look I've found this a problem or that. And there was no mention of anything at all. As far as he was concerned, it was the fastest way to get the car round those two corners. He had worked out all the other options and none of them were ideal. But this was the best compromise. There was also another bit, coming back to the "Bus Stop" chicane, the two very quick left-handers, which was interesting. If you looked at the section times, he was very quick there. Although he was in the top seven or eight all the time, he was always about second or third quickest. Andrea was unhappy with that section in his car. He said that "As you lift, just as you turn in, it gets a bit unsettled on the bumps", and I remember I talked to Michael about it. "Yeah," he said. "But it's okay if you just drive it flat. The lift actually destabilizes the car and if you keep it flat it's okay." Sure enough, it was.'
Few pictures from that weekend
And I said this then and I am saying it now again: To me Michael Schumacher will always be one of the greatest racing driver ever. Those who don't believe that's fine it's your opinion but you surely are living in denial.
Edited by merschu, 17 August 2011 - 06:35.