The 1992 Belgian GP: Michael Schumacher's First Win
The 1992 F1 Season
The 1992 F1 season was all about the Williams as the team to beat. With a technologically better car, Nigel Mansell and Patrese were at the top of the heap. Only the McLarens of Ayrton Senna and probably the Ferrari of Jean Alesi were anywhere close. Even in that, the track missed Prost as his contract with Ferrari was terminated by the end of the 1991 (previous) season. All these developments meant that the Williams team did not have too much competition.
But then many had discounted a spirited rookie, Michael Schumacher. With only a handful of races, he was already proving to be one heck of a driver. Schumacher debuted in 1991 and yet in 1992, by the time the teams reached Belgium, Schumacher was fourth in the drivers’ standing. The ones ahead of him were the Williams’ drivers and Ayrton Senna. That in itself was quite an achievement. However, no one believed that a lowly placed Benneton with a rookie would win a race.
That perception would soon change. Michael Schumacher would make his mark, if not already made.
Did You Know?
In the qualifying session of the 1992 Belgian GP, Erik Comas crashed and passed out while his car’s engine was still revving with his foot stuck on the accelerator.
Ayrton Senna was the first to reach the spot as he was behind Comas. He stopped and ran to cut off the engine of Comas’ car, and waited for the marshals to arrive.
To this day, Comas believes that Senna had saved his life, as otherwise, the car could have gone up in flames with the engine of the stationary car revving so hard.
The 1992 Belgian Grand Prix
The qualifying session ended with Nigel nearly a couple of seconds ahead of the second man, Ayrton Senna and third placed Michael Schumacher. What was immediately noticeable was the speed that Michael and Senna could bring out to edge past the second Williams of Patrese in fourth place. While qualifying was one thing and the race something totally different, Schumacher definitely felt that he had a chance. That is something he would later admit in the post-race conference.
The race did not start as expected and Schumacher lost position while Ayrton Senna shot through to the first place. The Williams were quite fast and both the cars eventually got into the more familiar one-two position on track. Then the weather gods intervened. Rain started pouring on the track with no signs of abating anytime soon.
The Williams soon responded to the changing condition by changing tires and others on track followed suit. However, Senna gambled against changing tires and stayed out on track. Senna’s gamble usually pays-off but not that day. He had to eventually make a stop and hence lost track positions. By the time he joined with the new set of tires, he was in twelfth position. But this opened up the front for the Bennetons, who were closely following the Williams.
But What About Schumacher?
Schumacher was in the third position being closely followed by his teammate, Martin Brundle, in fourth position. The rain stopped half-way through the race and most cars still continued on the wet tires as did Michael Schumacher. Then Michael momentarily lost a kerb and ran wide allowing his partner, Martin, to overtake him. While in a normal situation this would have been considered as hard-luck, Schumacher called out this particular incident as one that was not so bad. Why?
Well, when Martin passed Schumacher, Schumacher instantly saw the beating that Martin’s wet weather tires were taking on the drying track. It meant that the situation would be the same with his tires too. That realization made him call the team for a change of tires and thus, ended up being the first one to do so. Thereafter, Michael with the dry weather tires was bringing in hot laps after another, thus reducing the gap to the leading Williams cars. So, by the time the Williams pitted, Michael got into the lead. From there it appeared to be an easy run to the finish. Or was it?
Take a look at the race summary:
So, It Was Easy for Schumacher From There?
Not really. Once the Williams came out on the track with the dry weather tires, they started catching up with Schumacher. It was just a matter of time before they would have closed the gap, and possibly, eventually, overtaken him.
Here, luck played a role. Both the Williams faced some kind of issue with their exhaust which prevented them from reaching full-throttle on the straights. As such, they could keep their speed but not really catch up with Schumacher. And that was it. The first victory for Schumacher came through!
The exuberance of Schumacher was gleaming through even in the post-race press conference. Here, take a look.
See, what I mean. Everything worked out wonderfully for Schumacher and it was Benetton’s first win of the season as much as Schumacher’s first-ever win.
Did You Know?
In 1991, Schumacher made his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix and exactly a year later, won his first Grand Prix at the same venue.
A special track for Schumacher!
Back to the Garage
Schumacher won his first-ever Grand Prix, not owing to cars falling off the grid, but because of a great drive and a sound observation on his part. Although the Williams inability to catch up with Schumacher did play a role, it was a lesser incident as both cars could maintain track position.
While Schumacher would go on to win many more races, the very first one was no small achievement considering the fact that all the greats of F1 were still racing and going hard. To win among the greats was surely a sign of greatness to come!
© 2019 S K