Tag Archives: Michael Schumacher

Mercedes reveal W03 in Barcelona

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes are the final frontrunning team to release their 2012 F1 car, called the W03.

The Silver Arrows car has a distinctive nose design, featuring one of the highest steps on the grid so far. The bridge sections of the nose are particularly steep.

The W03 features a lower core weight than its predecessor. The Mercedes team noted that it took 4,500 parts to construct the W03, which is 200 more than the W02.

Over the last few months, the team have hired ex-Ferrari designer Aldo Costa, Renault engineer Bob Bell and Geoff Willis, who previously worked for BAR, Williams and Red Bull.

Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug has said that the aim from 2012 is to move into the top 3:

"2012 will mark the third season for our Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows works team, 
which was introduced in January 2010, and our target is to take a step forward in 
on-track performance.

A lot of work has been done throughout the last year, not just to design the new 
car but also to build a technical organisation that is capable of delivering to 
its full potential, with consistency. Our ultimate goal is to become regular race
winners and championship contenders, and so to write another chapter of success 
in the story of the Silver Arrows which began 78 years ago."

Team principal Ross Brawn called the stepped nose an “acquired taste”, but stated that the car is certainly a step forward from last year.

The W03 made its track debut in Barcelona today, with Michael Schumacher at the wheel.

Jerez testing day 2: Schumacher heads the field

Schumacher beat Webber to take top spot

Schumacher beat Webber to take top spot

Michael Schumacher was fastest in the second test day at Jerez.

The German, driving last year’s W02 was a second faster than yesterday’s time set by Kimi Raikkonen. Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo were fastest of the 2012 cars in 2nd and 3rd.

Jules Bianchi, new test driver for Force India, drove the VJM05 in the morning, going 4th. Kimi Raikkonen had an off in the morning, running into the gravel trap.

Felipe Massa and Jenson Button did not make much improvement on yesterday’s times, both focusing on higher-fuel runs. Massa is cagey on talking about the F2012, while Button has descibed the MP4-27 as better all round compared to last year’s model.

Sergio Perez took 9th, after replacing Kamui Kobayashi this morning. Pastor Maldonado was 10th for Williams. Caterham ran KERS on their car for the first time, and Heikki Kovalainen managed an impressive 139 laps without any technical difficulties with the new system.

Pedro de la Rosa was again last for HRT, albeit only 3.5 seconds off Schumacher’s time.

It is expected that we will see Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Giedo van der Garde get their first tastes of their 2012 cars tomorrow.

Times from Jerez day 2:

1. Michael Schumacher  Mercedes W02         1:18.561   132 Laps
2. Mark Webber         Red Bull RB6         1:19.184   97 Laps    +0.623
3. Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso STR7      1:19.587   100 Laps   +1.026
4. Jules Bianchi       Force India VJM05    1:20.221   46 Laps    +0.660
5. Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus E20            1:20.239   117 Laps   +1.678
6. Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05    1:20.272   69 Laps    +1.711
7. Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012        1:20.454   95 Laps    +1.893
8. Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27       1:20.688   85 Laps    +2.127
9. Sergio Perez        Sauber C31           1:20.711   68 Laps    +2.150
10.Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34        1:21.197   97 Laps    +2.636
11.Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham CT01        1:21.518   139 Laps   +2.957
12.Pedro de la Rosa    HRT F111             1:22.128   64 Laps    +3.567

2011 final driver rankings: 10th – 4th

This is the third article in a 4-part series, ranking all 28 drivers of the season. This section of the ranking covers drivers such as Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

10th – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Previous ranking: 13th

Review from previous ranking: “Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.”

It still amazes me that Paul di Resta is in only his first year in F1 – his form makes him look like an experienced veteran.

Aside from a few scrappy rookie errors, Di Resta has been incredibly reliable and solid for a rookie, amassing the most racing laps by any driver this year. He out-qualified teammate Adrian Sutil 9 times, and held this advantage 6 times in the races.

Force India later began to split their strategies between their two drivers, which resulted in a hit-and-miss second half for Di Resta. Despite this, many have been seriously impressed with the Scot’s mature attitude and confident driving this year.

The fact that he scored points in his first 2 races, as well as 6 of the last 9, spoke volumes.

9th – Adrian Sutil

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Previous ranking: 15th

Review from previous ranking: “If he is beaten by Di Resta in his first year, then Adrian will find himself shunted out of the way by the hotshot rookie.”

It’s both a blessing and a curse for teams to see their driver perform brilliantly while their contract is up for review. A blessing because it brings the results the team craves, a curse because the form rarely continues into the next season (see Toro Rosso).

Sutil found himself under huge pressure from rookie Di Resta, and delivered the goods fantastically in the second half of 2011. Taking season-best 6th places in home race Germany and Brazil were the highlights. It has been a complete turnaround from Germany only 2 years ago, when he bottled his first-ever points-scoring finish by clashing with Kimi Raikkonen.

He enjoyed a decent overall margin over Paul in both qualifying and the races, and rarely lost an opportunity when it was presented.

Adrian has proven himself to be much more reliable and mature than his previous driving indicated, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to retain his contract for 2012.

8th – Mark Webber

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Previous ranking: 7th

Review from previous ranking: “Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being beaten (points-wise) by Alonso.”

After the end of one of his most disastrous seasons in Formula 1, it is a mystery as to how Mark Webber can pull his career around.

Webber has been completely annihilated by Sebastian Vettel in every single sector this year. While his German teammate finished in the top two 16 times, Mark could do the same only 3 times across the entire season.

He struggled massively at starts, couldn’t extract any performance from the Pirelli tyres in qualifying, and wore them out too quickly in the races. A solitary win in Brazil was barely deserved either – it was only because Vettel suffered gearbox issues.

His racecraft was hit-and-miss as well. His pass on Fernando Alonso in Spa was breathtaking, but he showed inability to adapt to the 2011 racing style in Korea, passing Lewis Hamilton just before a DRS zone, allowing the McLaren to sail past.

A charge through the field in China was fantastic to watch, but overall it was incredibly disappointing to see Webber toil with the Ferraris and McLarens rather than with his teammate.

7th – Sergio Perez

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Previous ranking: 8th

Review from previous ranking: “Impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.”

A crash in Monaco ruled out Perez when the Sauber car was at its best, but he has still done an immense job in his rookie year.

“Checo” made an immediate impact in F1 by scoring points on his debut, only to have them cruelly taken away after a minor technical infringement. A scrappy few races followed, particularly in China, where Sergio picked up two penalties after some questionable driving.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about Perez is his mature no-nonsense attitude. After his Monaco crash, he sensibly sat out the Canadian GP as well, after not feeling well in Friday practice. There are many drivers on the grid who would go into the Grand Prix regardless, putting themselves and their fellow drivers at risk. The fact that Perez reported side-effects from the crash up to 4 races later shows that his decision was the sensible one.

He was soon back to his best, taking a career-best 7th in Silverstone. He was vastly superior over Kamui Kobayashi in qualifying, and was very competent at adapting to the Pirelli tyres. The fact that he is already being lined up for a Ferrari drive is a signal of his prowess.

6th – Lewis Hamilton

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Previous ranking: 4th

Review from previous review: “Hamilton needs to ease off at times, and learn which battles to fight and which to avoid.”

My prediction for Lewis Hamilton could not have been more wrong – it’s been an incredibly difficult year for the former world champion.

Needless clashes, spats with the stewards, tussling with a superior teammate, and apparent overwhelming personal issues all dogged Lewis in 2011. He hasn’t lost his racing ability, as shown by excellent driving in China, Spain and Germany. However, it was clear that Hamilton was surrounded by the wrong people.

The decision to hire a celebrity manager rather than a sporting one took its toll – Lewis was making 3 media/sponsor appearances every single day for a 3 week period at one point. His frustration took to the track, and several shunts with Felipe Massa in Monaco was just the beginning of a fracas that would last the entire season.

As well as the collisions with Massa, Monaco proved to be the worst race of the year. Hitting Pastor Maldonado near the end provoked another penalty from the stewards, and Lewis didn’t hold back in his criticism afterwards.

To make matters worse, the fact that Jenson Button had improved to become an increasingly competitive teammate proved calamitous. In Canada, relations were tense after the two collided in the treacherous conditions.

However, we must not forget that Lewis was still able to show his talents this year. He was completely deserving in every race he won, and pushed Vettel to the flag in Spain, where Red Bull have dominated so much in the past. Wonderful passes in China and Germany were a demonstration of how good a driver he is.

It’s absolutely certain that Hamilton has the pace to win championships, all he has to do is calm down. But that’s easier said than done.

5th – Michael Schumacher

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

Previous ranking: 10th

Review from previous ranking: “Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.”

It’s been more than improvement for Schumacher – he has seriously upped his game, and pushed Nico Rosberg in nearly every way to the final race in Brazil.

Ending the season only 13 points behind Rosberg, it’s been an impressive year for Schumacher. He deserved a well-earned podium in Canada, only for an oversized DRS zone to rip it out of his hands.

Poor qualifying was his hindrance, but he frequently made it up in the races. Michael has set 116 overtakes this season, more than any other driver. Of course, this stat is skewed in the fact that Rosberg was unable to make up much places, while Schumacher would ascend from the depths of Q2, but it is still an impressive statistic.

It’s no secret that Schumacher’s side of the garage is 100% geared towards defeating Rosberg. There is apparently a growing tension in the team as both sides do their best to out-perform the other. It will be very interesting to see how the German duo battle it out in 2012, but much of it will hinge on the car.

4th – Nico Rosberg

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Previous ranking: 5th

Review from previous ranking: “Consistently beating Schumacher will do his reputation a world of good.”

Another year, another lacklustre car at Rosberg’s disposal. It’s a wonder why he puts up with it.

While he was unable to completely dominate Schumacher in the points total, Rosberg completely out-classed his fellow German in qualifying pace. While Michael’s races were spattered with retirements, Nico has cleanly and consistently been taking points finishes by the truckload.

His points margin over Schumacher was reduced this year compared to 2010, but that was to be expected after a torrid campaign last time around from the 7-times champion.

Rosberg is completely capable of mixing it with the frontrunners whenever the opportunity arises, such as Spa or China. He has led quite a few Grands Prix, but the lack of pace from the W02 has constantly held him back from crossing the chequered flag first.

The start of next season will be similar to the start of 2011 – many will be looking to see does Mercedes deliver on its long-awaited frontrunning car. I’m also looking forward to that day – but mostly to see can Rosberg show what he’s really made of.

My top 5 overtakes of the year

With the Pirelli tyres and KERS providing a welcome new element to on-track racing, 2011 saw some fantastic battles between the drivers.   Although DRS grew slightly stale in its repetitive passes, we were in no shortage of wheel-to-wheel action. Here are my favourite overtaking moves from this season:

5th – Michael Schumacher on Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa – Canada

This year saw an improvement from Schumacher, after struggling for much of his return so far. After Felipe Massa got held up by Kamui Kobayashi in Canada, we saw a glimpse of the old Schumacher as he sliced through to take 2nd place.

4th – Sebastian Vettel on Fernando Alonso – Italy

Seeing one driver dominate at the front is no fun, it’s much more entertaining for everyone when Vettel has had to fight for the win. This pass on Fernando Alonso after a safety car restart showed Sebastian at his very best, racing at the limit even when the title had been neatly wrapped up.

3rd – Fernando Alonso on Jenson Button – Brazil

The surprised expressions from Brundle and Coulthard says it all – very few could imagine overtaking around the outside of Turn 6 in Brazil, but Fernando Alonso made it look easy.

2nd – Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso – Spa

An incredibly committed move by Mark Webber, shoving Alonso aside as the two cars entered Eau Rouge. This was a pass achieved through sheer bravery – and hoping that Fernando would give Mark space, which thankfully he did.

1st – Lewis Hamilton on Fernando Alonso – Germany

Victory for Lewis Hamilton at the Nurburgring was sweet, but the moment of the day had to be this fantastic opportunistic pass on Fernando Alonso. As the Spaniard exited the pits on cold tyres, Lewis swept around the outside to take the lead – and later the win.

Verstappen “convinced” Schumacher used driver aids in 1994

Jos Verstappen claims that Schumacher cheated en route to his first title

Jos Verstappen claims that Schumacher cheated en route to his first title

Former F1 driver Jos Verstappen has re-ignited the controversy over Michael Schumacher’s 1994 title success, after claiming that the German used illegal electronic driver aids.

In 1994, the FIA found that Schumacher’s Benneton did indeed contain illegal launch control protocol, which heavily assists a driver from a standing start on the grid. The software was hidden behind an ominously named “Option 13″ setting.

However, the sporting organisation was unable to prove that the Benneton actually used this software, although the 1994 French Grand Prix start suggests otherwise.

Now, Verstappen – Schumacher’s teammate in 1994 – has restarted this debate. In an interview with Dutch sports magazine NUsport, he said :

"I know what happened when we were together at Benetton. People think that I’m 
looking for excuses, but I know that his car was different from mine. I always 
thought it was impossible. I braked at the limit and I went into the corners as 
hard as it was possible. So how could Schumacher have done it? There was something 
wrong.

There were electronic driver aids. It was never mentioned, but I am convinced. I 
know enough now. Like everyone else, Michael is dependent on his car. For most 
people he was a god but he is not superman – in a kart he never beat me.

They [Benneton] will never admit it, but I am convinced. I later asked Flavio 
Briatore, who had brought me to Benetton and was then the team manager. He said, 
"Let's not talk about it." I know enough."

In 1994, Benneton were also embroiled in other controversies, such as illegaly removing a safety filter from their fuel rigs, speeding up pit stops. However, this also resulted in slightly fiery results, as Verstappen found out in Germany that year, as leaked fuel ignited and set his car ablaze.

Here is footage from the controversial start in France 1994:

Petrov handed 5-place grid penalty for India

Petrov launches into Schumacher, taking both cars out

Petrov launches into Schumacher, taking both cars out

Vitaly Petrov will be docked 5 places on the grid for the Indian Grand Prix later this month, after today’s collision with Michael Schumacher.

Petrov was racing Fernando Alonso for position entering Turn 3, when both cars out-braked themselves and slid off the track. Alonso took to the run-off area, while Petrov launched into an innocent Schumacher, taking both cars out of the race.

Vitaly accepted the blame soon after the race:

"It was not his fault, it was absolutely my fault – once my wheels were locked 
there was nothing I could do about it. But that’s racing and tomorrow is another 
day.

I tried to defend my position from Fernando but I was in the braking zone on the 
dirty side of the track which meant I locked my wheels and hit Michael.

I was focused on my battle with Fernando as there was potential for me to be 
ahead of him. We both braked too late as he missed the corner too."

Schumacher leads quiet rain-affected first practice in Korea

Schumacher set the fastest time in the dying minutes

Schumacher set the fastest time in the dying minutes

Michael Schumacher topped the timesheets for first practice for the Korean Grand Prix, in a session heavily disrupted by rain.

The first 30 minutes of the session were mostly silent, as only Lewis Hamilton set exploratory times on extreme wet tyres.

The track burst into life with half an hour to go, however. Hamilton, Sebastien Buemi and Adrian Sutil all briefly headed the timesheets with less than a minute to go.

Right at the end of the 90 minutes, Schumacher set a 2:02.784 to lead Sebastian Vettel and Paul di Resta. The new 2011 world champion had a slight scare near the end, almost running into the back of a Virgin car.

Managing only 5 laps, Mark Webber was 10th, 2.3 seconds off the pace. Karun Chandhok was 11th, while Jean-Eric Vergne was 13th for Toro Rosso in his first ever official practice session in F1.

Both Ferraris and Renaults, as well as Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button, opted not to set a time in FP1.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                2:02.784           10
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        2:02.840   0.056    8
 3.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes    2:02.912   0.128   12
 4.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    2:03.141   0.357   12
 5.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari      2:03.182   0.398    9
 6.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari          2:03.292   0.508   13
 7.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes        2:03.391   0.607    6
 8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                2:04.311   1.527   12
 9.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari          2:04.797   2.013    8
10.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        2:05.183   2.399    5
11.  Karun Chandhok        Lotus-Renault           2:06.350   3.566   11
12.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth       2:06.852   4.068   11
13.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      2:07.541   4.757    9
14.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth       2:08.218   5.434    5
15.  Narian Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth            2:08.832   6.048   14
16.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth            2:09.232   6.448   14
17.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth         2:12.658   9.874    7
18.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth         2:14.508   11.724   4
19.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 N/A                 0
20.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 N/A                 0
21.  Bruno Senna           Renault                 N/A                 0
22.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault                 N/A                 0
23.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault           N/A                 0
24.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        N/A                 0

Hamilton and Schumacher miss final Q3 run after “ridiculous” incident

Hamilton was clearly frustrated after today's qualifying

Hamilton was clearly frustrated after today's qualifying

Both Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton lost out at the end of Q3 in today’s Japanese Grand Prix qualifying, missing out on the final run in the dying minutes.

As a pack of four cars approached the final chicane – led by Jenson Button – teammate Lewis Hamilton backed off to create a raceable gap between the two McLarens. However, Mark Webber dived down the inside of Hamilton in order to retain a clean section of track in front of him. Meanwhile, Schumacher was on the outside, and took to the run-off area to avoid the duo.

Hamilton was on top of the timesheets at the time, but failed to set another time after crossing the line after the chequered flag. Schumacher suffered the same fate, while Webber made little impact on the frontrunners.

When asked about the incident, Lewis was initially coy on explaining, but later gave his view:

"It is what it is. Jenson was in front of me and he slowed down to get his gap. I 
was coming up to the last corner to make sure I had a gap between me and him. It 
wasn't that big.

Just as I was coming into the chicane I looked in my mirror and I saw Mark diving 
up the inside of me. Out of nowhere, he just shot up the inside and nearly 
crashed with me, so I had to avoid him.

And then I saw...I didn't even see Michael as I gave Mark room, but he nearly 
crashed on me on the left, so it was quite dangerous.

I don't know what the hell he was doing, but he went off onto the grass. It was 
just the most ridiculous thing I've ever experienced in qualifying.

I really hope somebody finds the footage for what happened because it wasn't right 
and it stopped my last qualifying lap."

On the other hand, Schumacher claimed that Hamilton had pushed him onto the grass:

"I had Webber in front because Hamilton slowed down. I don't know what was in front 
of him, if he really had to slow down that much, but it was tight for all three of 
us so we all had to push somehow to make it through and do another lap.

At that moment I was set to do a lap because I didn't know whether Kobayashi, or 
somebody, may go out [to set a time]. I tried my best and Lewis pushed me a little 
bit wide onto the grass."

As of yet there is no television footage of the incident.

Mercedes 1-2 in Belgian first practice

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher marked his 20 years in Formula 1 by leading first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Wearing a special gold helmet for this weekend, Michael was the first out of the pits, and this proved to be crucial.

Teammate Nico Rosberg was 2nd, as both Mercedes cars were the only drivers who went out on track before a heavy shower.

The rain lasted for the first half an hour of the session, completely soaking the track and forcing the other drivers to take on extreme wet tyres. Over the 90 minutes, drivers opted to switch to intermediates as the track slowly dried out.

Jenson Button was third fastest, over 8 seconds behind Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were 4th and 5th.

The damp track still caught out several drivers, most notably Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta, both crashing out at Turn 9.

Times from FP1:


 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:54.355            13
 2.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:54.829  + 0.474   15
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      2:02.740  + 8.385   8
 4.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      2:03.752  + 9.397   10
 5.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      2:04.301  + 9.946   7
 6.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  2:04.663  + 10.308  18
 7.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               2:04.728  + 10.373  10
 8.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     2:05.391  + 11.036  12
 9.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:06.583  + 12.228  16
10.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        2:06.886  + 12.531  15
11.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               2:07.055  + 12.700  12
12.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        2:07.481  + 13.126  15
13.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         2:08.233  + 13.878  14
14.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:08.239  + 13.884  14
15.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     2:08.918  + 14.563  10
16.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      2:09.792  + 15.437  8
17.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.278  + 17.923  13
18.  Tonio Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth          2:12.389  + 18.034  10
19.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.772  + 18.417  13
20.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  2:13.058  + 18.703  8
21.  Karun Chandhok      Lotus-Renault         2:13.090  + 18.735  11
22.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               2:13.601  + 19.246  10
23.  Bruno Senna         Renault               2:14.340  + 19.985  7
24.  Daniel Ricciardo    HRT-Cosworth          2:14.933  + 20.578  11

20 years since Schumacher’s debut

Today marks exactly 20 years since Michael Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut. While his current performances have been lacklustre to say the least, there is no denying how incredible his debut was.

Schumacher spent most of 1991 in Group C racing

Schumacher spent most of 1991 in Group C racing

In 1991, Schumacher was racing in Group C racing with the Mercedes team. It was a strange choice by his manager Willi Weber, as many had speculated it could have ended his career prematurely. Very few drivers were able to make it to Formula 1 by this route, Formula 2 being the better option.  Nevertheless, he performed well in Group C, alongside teammate Karl Wendliger.

His opportunity arrived when Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot ran into a spot of trouble with a taxi driver. After an argument with Eric Court, Gachot dealt with the situation in a bizarre manner – by spraying him with CS gas. While many expected a fine or suspended sentence, the judge dealt him 9 months in prison.

Gachot had a tyre test in Monza scheduled the day after, and so the Jordan team fell into disarray. The Belgian Grand Prix was less than a week away, and they were one driver short.

The main issue with any new driver was sponsorship, as Gachot had brought a substansial amount of money to the team. Team boss Eddie Jordan wanted to go for Keke Rosberg, even though the Finn had retired 5 years ago. Stefan Johansson and Derek Warwick were also contacted, but all three were requesting payment. Senior figures in the team soon spotted Schumacher as a prime talent.

The 22-year-old German was given an opportunity to prove himself, being allowed to lap the Silverstone South Circuit several times in an older Jordan car.  On his first flying lap, he almost lost the back of the car, but held the Jordan in an impressive rally-style slide.

According to several news sites also reporting this story, the team members had to stand in the middle of the track to force Schumacher to stop driving!

Within several laps, he was within several tenths of a second of the South Circuit record. He had impressed the team, and a one-off payment of £150,000 was given to Jordan from Mercedes for the Grand Prix opportunity.

Oddly enough, Michael may have had to lie in order to get the drive. Manager Willi Weber had promised Eddie Jordan that Schumacher had lapped the Spa circuit “hundreds of times”, but in actuality Michael had never even seen the track.

Schumacher on his debut test with Jordan

Schumacher on his debut test with Jordan

Nevertheless, Michael turned up in the Ardennes mountains amid fury regarding Gachot’s imprisonment. Many of the drivers and fans had started a campaign to release Bertrand from jail.

With this, much of the pressure had escaped Schumacher, as he calmly lapped the track in a fold-out bike to learn the layout. Andrea de Cesaris, his teammate for the weekend, was supposed to take him around the 7km circuit, but never found the time to do so.

On Friday practice, Schumacher went eigth fastest. He repeated that position in qualifying on Saturday, shocking the entire paddock. In the final sector alone, gained 1.2 seconds from his previous lap:

While he was 2.1 seconds away from Ayrton Senna, there was no denying that Schumacher was a fantastic talent. After Ricardo Patrese’s lap was disallowed for the car having no reverse gear, Michael was elevated to 7th, 4 places ahead of his experienced teammate.

In the morning warm-up Schumacher went 4th fastest – another incredible performance. But what happened at the start of the race is one of the most brilliant pieces of driving in recent times.

Within seconds, Schumacher had flown past Jena Alesi and triple world champion Nelson Piquet. He was so fast off the starting line that Piquet thought the German had jump started.

Here is a video showing the start. At 0:15 seconds in, you can see Michael (blue car in the middle) sail around Alesi:

Unfortunately, this miracle start didn’t last for long. He dipped the clutch at the La Cource hairpin, and brought it up again too quickly, burning the clutch out. He coasted to a halt after Eau Rouge.

After that, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi and Andrea de Cesaris all were in contention for the race win. Engine failures for Alesi and De Cesaris, as well as an electrical problem for Mansell, handed the win to Senna.

With De Cesaris having challenged for the lead from 11th, who knows what Schumacher could have done on that day. The aerodynamic and mechanical stability of the Jordan suited Michael perfectly.

However, he didn’t even start the next race for the Jordan team. Benneton had seen enough of Schumacher to want him, and the German was poached from under Eddie Jordan’s nose. He took his maiden win a year later, at the same circuit. And the rest is history…

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