F1: 23 years on – looking back at Schumacher’s Grand Prix debut

Michael Schumacher drives the No. 32 Jordan-Ford during preparation for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

Ayrton Senna may have won the Belgian Grand Prix on August 25, 1991, but it was the driver who finished last that the race is best remembered for.

Rising German racing star Michael Schumacher had been called in by the Jordan-Ford team to replace Bertrand Gachot, following an incident where Gachot had been sent to jail after spraying a London taxi driver with CS gas.

Schumacher, driving Gachot’s No. 32 car, was teamed up alongside Andrea de Cesaris, who had been racing in Formula One since 1980.

The German, 22-years-old at the time, was able to qualify his Jordan in seventh place on the grid, with only Ayrton Senna, Gerhard Berger, Nelson Piquet, Roberto Moreno, Riccardo Patrese and Mark Blundell ahead of him. Teammate Andrea de Cesaris qualified 11th.

The race got off to a clean start as the field made it incident-free through La Source. The green 7-Up Jordan of Schumacher soon began to slow however, as the field went through Eau Rouge and Raidillon. The clutch on the German’s Jordan had failed and he was out before the end of the first lap.

Schumacher had certainly caught everyone’s eye though, and Benetton soon snatched him up and put him in Roberto Moreno’s car for the end of the season, much to Eddie Jordan’s dismay. The Jordan team owner took the case to court attempting, in vain, to prove that Schumacher was locked into a contract with his team.

Just two weeks after his Belgian debut, Schumacher scored his first points finish with a fifth at the 1991 Italian Grand Prix, driving for Benetton.

One year later, Schumacher would get his second chance to conquer the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. This time, the car and driver held up, and the 23-year-old was able to secure his first Grand Prix victory in mixed weather conditions.

90 more Grand Prix wins and seven championships were to follow, making Schumacher the most decorated Grand Prix driver of all time.

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After his 2012 retirement from Formula One, Schumacher was involved in a skiing accident on December 29, 2013 and lapsed into a six-month medically induced coma. Updates on Schumacher’s condition have remained few and far between.