Today marks the 21st anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s first win in Formula One, marking the beginning of a glittering career that would see him become – statistically speaking – the greatest driver in the history of the sport.
Schumacher made his debut for Jordan at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, starting seventh on the grid before retiring early on. However, the German driver made such an impact that he was immediately snapped up by Benetton, going on to score four points in his opening six races for the team. His form improved during his first full season with the team, coming to fruition at Spa-Francorchamps – the location of his debut, his first win and his 300th grand prix in 2012 – on this day in 1992.
In the Camel-liveried Benetton, Schumacher had qualified an excellent third on the grid behind Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. However, he initially failed to put up a challenge to the dominant Williams of Mansell, who had secured the drivers’ championship at the previous race. Come lap thirty, Schumacher was fourth and did not look capable on winning the race as rain came and went frequently. Eventually, he made the decision to pit for slick tires whilst the rest of the field was on wets as the leaders bided their time. This turned out to be a fatal decision for previous-leader Mansell, who came out behind Schumacher when he eventually made the switch. The Williams then suffered from an exhaust failure that caused Mansell a loss of power, allowing Schumacher to pull away and claim his first win in Formula One.
It was indeed the first of many. Schumacher went on to win 91 grands prix and seven world championships before eventually retiring from motor racing at the end of last season, having spent a somewhat unsuccessful spell with Mercedes between 2010 and 2012 that yielded just one podium.