Spa all over again

A quarter of a century ago, Michael’s first Formula One victory

Spa all over again

What a difference a year makes. Spa-Francorchamps 1991, Formula 1 wonders: “Shoemaker? Who is that?.” By Spa, 1992, the name Schumacher is now well-known, but the British TV commentator John Watson is surprised: “Where do all the German flags come from …? “Many straight tracks from Kerpen, just straight on the motorway, and then turn once to the Ardennes.

After this 30th of August, no one will ask this question again, because this typical rainy summer day at the Hohe Venn is the date when Michael wins his first Grand Prix. The day when the “youth room” Spa becomes his living room, a day when all sports fans in Germany understand what the former racing driver Gerhard Berger had long suspected: “We all felt in the subconscious that this was the next superstar.” Formula 1 results from then on were always on the news.

Spa 25 years ago. This is the first of 91 career victories in the royal class. This was a triumph for the then 23-year-old Benetton driver, more than half a minute ahead, he had 44 seconds on the Williams duo Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, 46 seconds on his team colleague Martin Brundle and more than a minute on Ayrton Senna . The adverse and constantly changing circumstances on the slopes, the rain veils and the spray will from now on be increasingly called “Schumi-Wetter”.

In fact, this Grand Prix of Belgium is a testament to the instinct and talent that are Michael Schumacher’s exceptional abilities. Whenever he gets tight, he can trust himself and his feelings. This is also the case after he has turned from the runway and has to rejoin his team colleague Brundle. He sees that the rear tires are almost down on the Brits’ car, knows he is on the same vote, and points the Benetton box: “I’m coming, give me fresh rainbows again.” A classic undercut, the In the end the victory will mean.

“My decision was worth gold,” remembers Michael, “but it was really strange – my team colleague helped me win.” For 17 years, no German had won a Formula 1 race. In 1992 it was to be the only victory for Michael, in his first full Grand Prix year. He finished third in the championship, behind Mansell and Patrese, who he had defeated in Spa. He was the best newcomer to Formula One since Jackie Stewart. And two seasons later he would become world champion …