x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The arrival of a new superstar

Ahead of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, Graham Caygill looks back at the memorable 1991 race.

AGS mechanics work on Fabrizio Barbazza's car.
AGS mechanics work on Fabrizio Barbazza's car.

Comfortably the longest track in Formula One at present at more than 7km in length, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps is always popular with drivers on the calendar. This weekend's event will be no different as it is a race where drivers and cars can test themselves on a circuit full of quick turns, which also allows overtaking, while there is also the unpredictable weather in the region.

It is a track where usually the great drivers can shine and in 1991 it was the venue of the debut of the man who would become the most successful driver in the sport's history. Michael Schumacher was standing in at Jordan-Ford for Bertrand Gachot, who had been jailed following an altercation with a London taxi driver. He immediately made the paddock take notice by qualifying a mediocre car seventh on the grid.

The German then made a great start, moving up to fifth by the first corner. But that was as good as it got as clutch failure sidelined him before the end of the first lap. The race proved an exciting affair as world championship rivals Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell pulled away at the front. The Williams of Mansell took the lead after the pit-stops before mechancial problems forced him to retire. The non-stopping Jean Alesi then led in his Ferrari before engine failure sidelined him as well, leaving Senna to head the field again.

Despite suffering from gearbox problems, Senna held on to win his sixth race of the season, ahead of his McLaren teammate Gerhard Berger. The Benettons of Nelson Piquet and Robert Moreno were third and fourth, while Riccardo Patrese's Williams came through from 17th on the grid to finish fifth after a battling performance. @Email:gcaygill@thenational.ae