The perfect race: Michael Schumacher
With F1, as we tread our way into 2021 and beyond, ‘Lewis Hamilton’ is the only name that rings a bell for the generation of today. However, the actual fanatics know that Michael Schumacher is the real reason why F1 is so widely watched today.
Dating back to 1991, the German driver, Michael Schumacher, first entered the world of fast cars. Having won competitions and awards in the realm of Go Karts and F3 cars, he was nothing but a novice here. The mere sight of F1 would take his breath away as they swept past him lap after lap. The smell of burnt rubber over the tarmac, the warmth of the glorious engine, or be it the streamlined shape of the car as it cut through the air, Schumacher had found his destiny. All those years driving karts and F3 cars had brought him to what he was born to do.
Impressed with his successes over the years, the Jordan F1 team decided to sign young Schumacher as their professional driver. Michael debuted for his first race in the iconic Jordan 191, which is still one of the most fondly remembered cars in F1 history, sporting its 7 Up-inspired green and blue ensemble. However, while trying to work his way up in the race, the clutch failed him. This race was the first and last of what Jordan saw with Schumacher.
Immediately afterwards, he moved to Benetton. He knew he was a champion, all he needed was a decent, reliable car. The B194 was just that. It was the successor of B193, fitted with a Ford Zetec-R V8 engine, closely based on its predecessor. With no electronic driving aids, it became incredibly difficult to handle the car. Going fast around the twisty tracks was like taking a risk as big as driving on wet tarmac. But in the hands of Schumacher, the B194 was nothing like anyone had ever experienced. As if they had become one.
He desperately waited to lock his target on Villeneuve before he could squeeze the fire handle and eliminate Williams-Renault once and for all. Trying to fathom the track with its corners in his mind, he had now cut very close to Villeneuve. Splashes from the whirling tyres fogged Schumacher’s vision. Sitting in a seat soaked with water, and dressed in damp overalls, Michael had had enough and could not take any extra vapour from the splashes as was already over him and under him. Three laps later, he pulled the same move on Villeneuve. Slamming the accelerator on the fifth corner, he placed the F310’s nose ahead of his tyre. Carefully safeguarding his Renault, Villeneuve moved out of Schumacher’s way, giving him the lead.
Confronted with the challenge of retaining the lead, Schumacher exceeded all expectations. Finishing subsequent laps with a quicker time, he ended up recording his fastest lap of all in the 14th. In his 12th lap after crossing Villeneuve, he had consolidated a tremendous lead of 40 seconds by the time of his first pit stop. As quick as they could be, the Ferrari crew cost him 20 seconds when he emerged.
To recover the time lost at the pit stop, Schumacher stormed on, eventually taking a lead of a staggering minute and a half over the others. However, this again was reduced to a 90 second lead when he stopped for his second and final pit on lap 42. Crossing lap after lap in the lead, no other driver dared come near him. Schumacher had gambled against nature and was on his way to the finishing line. The best drivers could not hold him back, and neither could the heavy rain on the tarmac. On the edge of his seat, he could see the finishers on his 65th lap. A hurray went up from the crowd as the flags were swung for the Ferrari. This was his first epic victory for Ferrari in a car that was far from the class of the field.
And on that day, 25 years ago in Barcelona, began the story of the invincible pilot in the red overalls..