August 25th, 25 years ago

The day it all began

August 25th, 25 years ago

Quarter of a century ago, the Formula 1 career of Michael Schumacher blasted off in Spa-Francorchamps unbelievably.
The Sports Chronicle reports a lot of fame for this last Sunday of August 1991: Carl Lewis runs to a new world record over 100 meters, Germany’s rowers are the best at the World Championships in Vienna and the canoers are even more successful in earning medals.
Starting from seventh position at the Belgian Grand Prix, particularly after having a technical breakdown after the first few hundred meters, is not worth mentioning. Not yet.

A dull pressure headache. Heavy eyes, runny nose. A Husky voice, almost too deep for a 22 year old. The chin defiantly pushed forward, mouth tighter than usual. This is the way a young man named Michael Schumacher steps into a youth hostel the evening before the beginning of his matchless career.

The Spa-Francorchamps racetrack is yet not Michael ‘s living room, but it is his youth room. Still employed with the Mercedes Sports Car Team, a favorable opportunity puts him in the cockpit of the Jordan Racing Team. A German in Formula 1, the nation had to wait a long time for this to happen. One who could drive into 8th place at first attempt and could stand up to the Sennas, Prosts or Mansells, seemed to be a fairytale from the Ardennes. One of those that give you a frisson of excitement.

And is just as true as the fact, that after a few hundred meters the gear shift in the Jordan racecar goes up in smoke. Up till then, Michael had already passed Jean Alesi in his Ferrari and Nelson Piquet (Benetton) and was fifth. The short distance only allowed his talent to briefly flash up, but it was enough to see for two mighty men from this elite division. Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore ensure that the young German is immediately promoted into the Benetton Team, which boosts off his career straightaway.

Hardly no one knew that he – accept for a thursday’s course inspection on a bike – had never driven on the challenging track in Belgium before. Not even Eddie Jordan, otherwise the very business-minded Irishman would never have given him a chance. Experience did not determine his rapid success, it was Michael’s intuition: “ I was surprised myself, that I was so relaxed before the start. Maybe, because everything fit in. Right place, right time, right car, right people.” He could especially rely on his own capability to immediately adapt to all conditions: “The reason I am able to be so fast on unknown tracks is because somehow it’s in my blood. It doesn’t take me long to get used to a car, I can just get in and drive to the limit”.

Spa-Francorchamps with its own, individual character is not just coincidently always been Michael’s favorite racetrack. There, where on August 25th 1991, it all began.