Michael Schumacher may be an iconic figure synonymous with Formula 1, but as a past tale has highlighted, that was not always the case.
All the way back in 1991, a rather bizarre incident, even by Formula 1’s standards, opened the door for Schumacher to make his debut as the seeds were sown for what went on to become a legendary, record-breaking career.
Drafted in by Jordan Grand Prix for the 1991 Belgian GP to replace the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot, Schumacher made an immediate impact, qualifying a mighty P7, and though his race ended on Lap 1 due to clutch problems, Schumacher’s statement was made and he was snapped up by Benetton for the next race.
Rookie Michael Schumacher mistaken for delivery boy
Before any of that though, Jordan informing his crew of Schumacher’s arrival led to a funny story from that first encounter with the unfamiliar German youngster.
Andy Stevenson, a Jordan GP mechanic at the time who these days is sporting director of the team now called Aston Martin, told Bild: “Eddie came to us and said: ‘Bertrand can’t drive’.
“Eddie said: ‘We have this young driver Michael who drove in Japan’. We were then supposed to stay late one evening for his seat fitting. So we were late at the factory, and suddenly a young delivery boy came. And then we realised: that’s not a delivery boy, that’s our new Formula 1 driver.”
So, once the crew realised Schumacher was not a “delivery boy”, they set about the seat-fitting process and put Schumacher through his initial paces, Stevenson saying that after only a couple of testing laps at Silverstone, they knew they were dealing with a World Champion in the making.
“His level of professionalism was already beyond anything we had experienced with other drivers,” said Stevenson.
“From the moment Michael sat in the car, he knew immediately what he wanted. He was totally hands-on, wanted to be involved and help with everything.
“After two or three laps [at Silverstone] he was already faster than anything we had achieved before. He was hitting lap times after lap times.
“I distinctly remember saying to a friend after the test session, ‘We’ve just tested a future World Champion.’ It was completely obvious. He made the car dance through the chicanes.”
As it turned out, Stevenson was exactly right as Schumacher went on to win seven World titles, two with Benetton and five with Ferrari, meaning he and current Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sit atop the F1 mountain as the only seven-time champs.
Aston Martin meanwhile have their sights set on future title glory, the team currently holding P3 in the Constructors’ Championship and the same position in the Drivers’ standings courtesy of Schumacher’s former rival Fernando Alonso, having taken a huge leap up the pecking order for F1 2023.