The New Boy

Michael Schumacher, Jordan, Spa-Franbcorchamnps

Michael Schumacher sits quietly in his temporary new home, a Jordan 191-Ford F1 car, at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on August 25, 1991. The young Schumacher, then only 22 years old, had been driving Group C cars for Mercedes-Benz with noted success. It was with Mercedes funding that he was given the Jordan opportunity when a regular Jordan driver, Bernard Gachot, found himself in jail following a fight with a London taxi driver.

Schumacher amazed everyone at Spa when he qualified seventh with the then relatively uncompetitive Jordan, a far better result than would have been expected from Gachot and also almost a full second ahead of his far more experienced Jordan teammate Andrea de Cesaris. Schumacher’s race would last only part way around the first lap when the Jordan’s clutch failed, but he was even then on everyone’s list as a potential star talent, somewhat like the arrival of Max Verstappen in 2015.

The young German was quickly snapped up by Flavio Briatore for the Benetton family’s F1 team and appeared for Benetton at the Italian Grand Prix where he would finish fifth and ahead of his Benetton teammate, former F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet. Schumacher’s quick move from Jordan to Benetton was complicated by litigation which made no one look good, although Benetton prevailed.

This was the start of an F1 career which would result in a record seven World Championships and many other F1 driver records by the time Schumacher retired in 2012.

Photo by Nigel Snowdon – ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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One comment

  1. Thank you for your Michael Schumacher story and photograph at Spa. Shortly after that, in September 1991, I met him at Estoril where he was driving, by then, the Bennetton-Ford, qualifying 10th and finishing with 1 point in 6th on the same lap as the winner, Williams driver Riccardo Patrese. Pre-race there was scattered talk about the young German and how he could very well surprise Formula One watchers. But the concentrated attention in the Portuguese paddock and pits was on McLaren’s Senna, Ferrari’s Alesi, Williams drivers Patrese and Mansell, along with newcomer Michael’s Bennetton teammate, Nelson Piquet. A couple of days before the race I came across Schumacher sitting by himself at a table near the Bennetton coach and thought I would take the opportunity to engage him in conversation. I spoke no German; his eventual fine command of English was yet in place. “To be honest”—a frequent lead-line of Michael’s, as the world of F1 fans would grow to know him—I learned that day at Estoril much more from his facial expressions, his body language, than his halting words. In uncommonly quick time, he would be formidable. I was not alone in that early assessment.


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