How an F1 driver spraying CS gas at a taxicab driver paved the way for Michael Schumacher

His potential was made very clear at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix

BY Raf Diallo 16:08 Thursday 25 August 2016, 16:08 25 Aug 2016

Michael Schumacher with Benetton in 1991. Picture by: / AP/Press Association Images

On August 25th 1991, Michael Schumacher first started a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

That first ever race for the German at the iconic Belgian Grand Prix - the same race which takes place this weekend - was the first evidence of the brilliance that was to come.

Seven world titles and 91 race wins are landmarks that are unlikely to be broken for an incredibly long time and in his first qualifying session, Schumacher showed the first signs of excellence.

In the lead-up to the 11th race of the 1991 season, Schumi wasn't even part of the F1 grid. But then an off-track incident intervened.

A minor traffic incident at London's Hyde Park Corner on December 10th 1990 then became a major altercation as Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot  sprayed CS gas at a taxicab driver.

Possession of CS gas was illegal in the UK, even though Gachot maintains that "it was a clear case of self-defence". But he ended up serving two months in prison which ruled him out of the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

That ended up leaving a temporary vacancy that Irish team owner Eddie Jordan had to fill.

Schumacher was competing in other motor racing series when he got the call-up and immediately shone.

In qualifying, the then-22-year-old put his Jordan seventh on the grid, just behind world class drivers from the era like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.

He also finished ahead of experienced team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, who was down in 11th, in that maiden qualifying session.  

The race itself on the next day didn't go well as a clutch issue put him out of action early on but his potential did not go unnoticed.

By the next race in Italy, he had signed for Benetton (with whom he won his first world titles in 1994 and 1995) despite being under contract with Jordan, where he again qualified seventh and then followed it up with his first championship points after a fifth place finish in Monza. 


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