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Michael Schumacher's 1991 season was his first in Formula One. He drove in the last six races, scoring four points and being classified in fourteenth place in the championship. He drove his first race for Jordan and the remaining five for Benetton.

Schumacher, at age 22, made his début at the Belgian Grand Prix for Jordan, replacing Bertrand Gachot, who had been arrested in Britain. Schumacher performed above expectations; qualifying seventh for the race before retiring on the first lap with clutch failure.

A controversial move to Benetton immediately followed. Benetton were looking to replace Roberto Moreno, and Schumacher's evident talent looked to make him the perfect choice for the future, and they signed him on a contract until the end of 1995, away from Jordan who wanted Schumacher to commit to the end of 1992. Moreno signed for Jordan as a replacement for Schumacher, effectively swapping seats with the German.

He made an immediate impact, scoring his first points with a fifth-placed finish in Italy, which was followed by sixth places in Portugal and Spain, the latter from fifth on the grid. He retired from the final two races of the season.

Prelude

Michael Schumacher made his single seater debut in 1988 racing in the German Formula Ford and Formula Konig series after spending most of his childhood in karting. Schumacher quickly gained a reputation as a star of the future when he won nine of the ten races in the Formula Konig series. With this success he then proceeded to move into the German Formula 3 Championship in 1989 where he finished the season third in the championship with two wins under his name. The following season in 1990 he was even stronger winning five of the eleven races and going on to take the German F3 title.

Recognising his talent, Peter Sauber signed Schumacher up for three rounds in the 1990 World Sportscar Championship driving for his Sauber-Mercedes team. In the last round of the championship at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico, Schumacher and his teammate, the retired Formula One veteran Jochen Mass won the race and in doing so sealing the Constructors title for Sauber.

Sauber then re-signed Schumacher for the 1991 season for three rounds in the Sportscar Championship. Once again, Schumacher did not disappoint winning the final round of the championship at the Autopolis circuit in Japan with fellow future F1 racer Karl Wendlinger.

The Jordan Drive

Shortly after the 1991 Hungarian Grand Prix, Jordan F1 driver Betrand Gachot was sentenced to a two month jail term in Great Britain for using an illegal C2 gas can to defend himself against a taxi driver in 1990. This meant that the second Jordan Grand Prix seat was left vacant. Demand to fill this seat was high, Jordan had entered its maiden F1 season in 1991 and both its drivers Andrea de Cesaris and Bertrand Gachot were regular points contenders. Out of work F1 drivers such as Derek Warwick and Stefan Johansson displayed interest in racing for Jordan for the rest of the season. Even 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg was considering making a comeback with the Jordan team despite being out of F1 since 1986 and being 43 years of age.

However when Michael Schumacher's Manager Willi Weber got in touch with team principal Eddie Jordan, it was Schumacher that Jordan eventually decided to use as Gachot's replacement for Belgium. Despite being completely untested in an F1 car, Schumacher's reputation in sportscars, Formula 3 and Formula Konig indicated that he had a potentially strong future in F1. Whilst experienced neither Derek Warwick or Stefan Johansson had ever excelled in F1 and Keke Rosberg was considered too old and had been away from the sport for too long to make a successful return.

On the Tuesday before the Belgian Grand Prix Grand Prix, Schumacher got his first F1 test in the Jordan 191 at the Silverstone Circuit working alongside new teammate De Cesaris. De Cesaris was considered a formidable yet reckless opponent and had consistently outperformed Schumacher's predecessor Gachot in the Jordan. However at the end of Schumacher's first test session he was lapping within half a second of De Cesaris' best time at the circuit. It was a performance that exceeded everyone's expectations and left a highly positive outlook for both Eddie Jordan and Michael Schumacher upon heading to Belgium one day later.

Belgian Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Belgian Grand Prix
Schumacher 1991 Belgium

Schumacher driving up Eau Rouge

After Schumacher's strong performance at Silverstone, expectations were high for him to perform in Belgium. However Schumacher had never raced at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and was at severe disadvantage to both De Cesaris and the rest of the field. While he said that he had been around the circuit, in truth it was only a single lap on a bicycle. Nevertheless he continued to perform above expectations when he consistently went faster than his teammate De Cesaris in both practice sessions. In the second practice session he notably had a light accident with the Ferrari of then triple world champion Alain Prost. When asked to justify the reasons why he hit the back of the Ferrari, Schumacher duly noted that Prost was breaking too early when entering the corner. A bold statement to a multiple world champion from an untested young driver who had yet to make his F1 debut.

In qualifying he continued to outpace the disgruntled De Cesaris qualifying an impressive 7th compared to De Cesaris's 11th grid placing, the Italian unable to outqualify the rookie despite his eleven years of experience within F1. Schumacher had stamped his authority as one of the greatest young talents in F1 and now was eyed with great interest by the rest of the paddock. However the full potential of Schumacher's abilities in the Jordan were never realised, his clutch failed on the opening lap shortly after Eau Rouge. For all the hype his race lasted less than 60 seconds. In contrast to this however De Cesaris, who was being scrutinised by the media for being consistently defeated by his younger, more inexperienced teammate, put in a strong effort and was on track to score Jordan's first ever podium in second position. However, just three laps from the end his engine failed and he was out of the race. It had been a disappointing race for the Jordan team, however Schumacher at least left the circuit with a lot more value as a driver than he had going into it.

Contract Dispute

The following Tuesday Schumacher returned to testing the Jordan at Silverstone. It was both the intention of Eddie Jordan and Michael Schumacher that Schumacher would complete the 1991 season with Jordan. However Jordan wanted Schumacher to immediately sign a contract for the 1992 season as well as the rest of the 1991 season. Feeling that Jordan would not be as strong in 1992 as it was in 1991 due to the dropping of the Ford engines and it being replaced by the less powerful and untested Yamaha engines, Schumacher wanted to keep his options open for 1992 and was not yet ready to commit to Jordan. Unbeknownst to either of them, Tom Walkinshaw, the Engineering Director at the Benetton team, had contacted Schumacher's manager Willy Weber in hope of signing a multi-season deal with Schumacher from the Italian Grand Prix onwards. Walkinshaw was already aware of Schumacher's talent being team principal of Tom Walkinshaw Racing, an adversary to the Sauber team that Schumacher was driving for in the World Sportscar Championship in 1990. Schumacher was immediately interested, Benetton being more financially stable than Jordan as well as already being proven as a race winning team with a total of five race wins since 1986, one of which had been scored that year.

Schumacher quickly signed the contract which binded him to the team until the end of 1995 unless Schumacher's services were wanted at the potential Mercedes team that was planning to enter in 1993. Benetton's current second driver Roberto Moreno was quickly and ruthlessly sacked by team principal Flavio Briatore with only days before the Italian Grand Prix. Despite protests from Eddie Jordan and Roberto Moreno, Schumacher was now an official Benetton F1 Driver entering his first Grand Prix with the team at Italy. Jordan, powerless to see their newfound talent slip away, were forced to take on the outcast Moreno as their new second driver.

Italian Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Italian Grand Prix

Shortly before the Italian Grand Prix began, Schumacher conducted a final test session at Silverstone trying out the B191 for the first time before heading to Monza. Schumacher had easily bested Andrea de Cesaris at Belgium, however his new teammate at Benetton had an even more formidable reputation.

Schumacher was partnered with the triple World Champion Nelson Piquet. Piquet whilst well past his best years at the age of 39 in 1991 was still considered a formidable driver who had still managed to win the Canadian Grand Prix earlier that year. The Brazilian veteran shared no love for his new teammate and quickly disillusioned himself from the Benetton management, angered over the fact that his good friend and compatriot Roberto Moreno had been sacked from the team.

Schumacher however continued to impress, during the practice sessions he was able to lap significantly quicker than teammate Piquet. This performance transitioned over into qualifying in which the young German driver was able to out qualify his three time world champion teammate on his first attempt. Schumacher lined up 7th on the grid with Piquet just behind him in 8th place.

As the race began Schumacher got a reasonable get away and held position in 7th place after the first lap. However he was promoted to 6th place by the end of the second lap when the Ferrari of Jean Alesi spun when attempting to pass his teammate, Alain Prost. On lap 27 he moved up to 5th when the Williams-Renault of Riccardo Patrese retired from 2nd place with engine failure. Schumacher had a generally quiet race, running in 5th place for most of it, however he did notably have a short lived duel with the McLaren-Honda of reigning champion Ayrton Senna for two laps on laps 34 and 35.

Schumacher had moved up to 4th place when Senna had entered the pits for new tyres. Senna reemerged from the pits just behind Schumacher, Schumacher and Senna fought over the position for two laps before Senna was able to get the better of the young German charger. From then onwards Schumacher had a quiet race to finish in 5th place thoroughly beating teammate Nelson Piquet who had struggled throughout the race and only managed to take 6th place in the dying laps of the race from Schumacher's former teammate Andrea de Cesaris.

Portuguese Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Portuguese Grand Prix

Schumacher had continued to impress at Monza, he had thoroughly smashed his world champion teammate Nelson Piquet throughout the weekend. The question now was whether he could continue with this pace at Estoril for the Portugeuese Grand Prix.

The B191 however did not display any signs of the pace it had during Italy. Both Schumacher and Piquet struggled through practice and qualifying. Schumacher was only able to finish the qualifying session 10th, however yet again was able to outqualify Piquet who finished the session 11th just behind him.

Schumacher had a relatively uneventful race finishing the race 6th, being able to advance up through the field due the retirements of several other cars and being able to force his way past the Leyton House of Mauricio Gugelmin. Notably however he finished behind a teammate for the first time in his F1 career when Piquet was able to get the better of Schumacher at the start of the race. Schumacher finished six seconds behind the Brazilian after trailing him for nearly the whole race.

Spanish Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Spanish Grand Prix

The Spanish Grand Prix was to be moved to a new venue for the 1991 season. Previously being hosted at the Circuito de Jerez, the Spanish Grand Prix would now have a new home at the newly completed Circuit de Catalunya.

The Catalunya circuit would be a new experience for all the drivers on the grid and an extra practice session was held on the Thursday before the race to allow the drivers to become more accustomed to the circuit. Notably at the end of this session it was Michael Schumacher who topped the timesheets in the first session at the Catalunya circuit, demonstrating his competitiveness at Barcelona.

At the end of Qualifying Schumacher had placed himself a competitive 5th on the grid in which he had significantly outpaced Nelson Piquet who could only manage 10th.

At the start of the race Schumacher was able to make a strong start to move up to third by the end of the first lap, passing both the Williams-Renault's of Nigel Mansell and Ricardo Patrese. After a brief duel with Schumacher, Mansell was able to get the better of the young German on the third lap to retake 4th and go after the leaders Gerhard Berger and Ayrton Senna.

The track was still slightly wet after an earlier rain shower before the race had started, hitting a wet patch Schumacher had went off the circuit and lost 4th place to the Ferrari of Alain Prost before heading to the pits for new tyres. By lap 12 however Schumacher was past Prost and set out to catch Berger, Mansell and Senna.

Towards the middle of the race, the rain returned and Ayrton Senna was caught out sending him into a spin which promoted Schumacher to 3rd. The rain did not last long and was gone as quick as it came. By now Schumacher was the quickest car on the track and was quickly catching the two leaders Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell. Mansell was able to get by Berger for the lead of the race and it looked like Schumacher was to get by as well, however he botched his overtaking maneuver sending him spinning into the gravel traps forcing him to drop behind Senna, Prost and the second Ferrari of Jean Alesi.

For the rest of the race Schumacher stayed in 6th position and collected only one point in the championship. It was a disappointing result considering his extreme pace that could have given him his first podium or potentially his first win. However he had once again out paced teammate Piquet dramatically who finished the race 10th and two laps down on his younger teammate.

Japanese Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Japanese Grand Prix

Going into qualifying at the Suzuka Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix, Schumacher once again looked quick throughout the weekend. That was until midway through qualifying when Schumacher had his first accident in an F1 car. Schumacher went wide at turn 6 getting a wheel on the grass which proceeded to spin him around and throw him into the barriers at high speed.

Schumacher walked away from the car in a considerable state of shock but otherwise unharmed. During the qualifying session the Ferrari of Jean Alesi and the Larrousse of Éric Bernard also had accidents, Bernard notably breaking his ankle during his shunt.

The qualifying accident left Schumacher 9th on the grid yet still one place ahead of teammate Nelson Piquet. At the start Schumacher was able to get the better of the two Minardi cars ahead of him being that of Pierluigi Martini and Gianni Morbidelli and also benefited from the retirement of Jean Alesi on the first lap meaning he finished the first lap in 6th place.

Schumacher moved up another place when Nigel Mansell spun his Williams out of the race, an action that notably cost him the world title. Schumacher had been pushing to catch the Ferrari of Alain Prost with teammate Nelson Piquet just behind, when all of a sudden his engine gave way and exploded forcing him to retire, whilst Piquet took 4th place from Prost and finished in that position by race end.

Australian Grand Prix

Main article: 1991 Australian Grand Prix

The Australian Grand Prix located at the Adelaide Street Circuit marked the final Grand Prix of the 1991 season. Nelson Piquet's reputation as a racing driver had been severely dampened after being ridiculed by the younger and much more inexperienced Schumacher since the German had joined Benetton. Piquet, fearing his F1 career was coming to an end, had to perform to demonstrate he still had skill in F1 and outqualified Schumacher for the first time that season. Piquet would start the race in 5th position but Schumacher loomed just behind in 6th place.

The start of the race was delayed due to a torrential downpour of rain at the scheduled starting the time. When the rain eased slightly the decision was made to start the race. At the start Schumacher moved ahead of Piquet and the Williams of Riccardo Patrese to take 4th position in the race.

The downpour did not get any better and instead only got worse with many cars spinning or crashing out of the race. On lap 5 Schumacher became of the many when he spun off the circuit whilst trying to attempt to avoid the wrecked Ferrari of Jean Alesi that was stranded in the middle of the circuit.

As the rain got worse and more cars crashed out of the race, the race was stopped on lap 14. Piquet found himself finishing in 4th position in what would be his last race in Formula One.

For Schumacher however it was the beginning of an illustrious career in which he demonstrated to the world in his 6 races in 1991 that he was a driver capable of winning World Championships.

Statistical Overview

Information and Statistics

Teams Jordan-Ford
Benetton-Ford
Cars Jordan 191
Benetton B191
Numbers 32
19
Team-mates Andrea de Cesaris
Nelson Piquet
Races 6
Starts 6
Pole positions 0
Front rows 0
Victories 0
Podia 0
Fastest laps 0
Laps raced 228
kms raced 1143.081
Races led 0
Laps led 0
kms led 0
Doubles 0
Hat-tricks 0
Grand Chelems 0
Points 4
WDC Position 14th

Results

Round Grand Prix Team Car Grid Race Champ Pts Rank
11 Belgian Grand Prix Jordan-Ford 191 7th Ret 0 NC
12 Italian Grand Prix Benetton-Ford B191 7th 5th 2 16th
13 Portuguese Grand Prix Benetton-Ford B191 10th 6th 3 14th
14 Spanish Grand Prix Benetton-Ford B191 5th 6th 4 14th
15 Japanese Grand Prix Benetton-Ford B191 9th Ret 4 14th
16 Australian Grand Prix Benetton-Ford B191 6th Ret 4 14th

Comparison

Points
Driver Pts
Maximum
160
Champion (Ayrton Senna)
96
12 – JJ Lehto
4
13 – Bertrand Gachot
4
14 – Michael Schumacher
4
Laps raced and lead
Statistic Laps
All races
980
MSC Maximum
300
Laps raced
228
Laps led
0

Notes

V T E Germany Michael Schumacher
Seasons
1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012
Season Reports
1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012
Teams
Jordan (1991) • Benetton (1991–1995) • Ferrari (1996–2006) • Mercedes (2010–2012)
Teammates
Andrea de Cesaris (1991) • Nelson Piquet (1991) • Martin Brundle (1992) • Riccardo Patrese (1993) • Jos Verstappen (1994) • JJ Lehto (1994) • Johnny Herbert (1994–1995) • Eddie Irvine (1996–1999) • Rubens Barrichello (2000–2005) • Felipe Massa (2006) • Nico Rosberg (2010–2012)
Rivalries
Fernando Alonso • David Coulthard • Mika Häkkinen • Damon Hill • Juan Pablo Montoya • Jacques Villeneuve
Other pages
Ralf (brother) • Statistics • Teammate comparison • Category
Gold-star

This article is a featured article.
This was the Formula 1 Wiki's Featured Article on 2 January 2014.

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