This weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix will be particularly special for Michael Schumacher as it marks twenty years since he first appeared in the sport.
The German impressed everybody after he qualified seventh in an uncompetitive Jordan for the 1991 race at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit. Poor reliability meant that he could not finish that first race but was poached by Benetton for the following grand prix and the rest, as they say, is history.
The seven-time world champion also won his first grand prix at Belgium (his first of six at the track), a year after his debut.
“It’s hard to believe that [my first race] was such a long time ago,” says Schumacher. “A lot has changed in those 20 years, but one thing has not: the track is still sensational. I just love the great nature of the location and the resulting layout with all the ups and downs.
“To me, Spa remains my ‘living room’, because it has been the stage for so many things which have been remarkable for my sporting career. This is why this time I would like to specifically send a big thank you to all my fans for their loyalty and support, which I was happy to receive during those 20 years and also since my comeback.
“Talking about the sporting side prior to Spa, we are all returning from the summer break with fresh motivation and energy, and will try to set an exclamation mark at the Belgian Grand Prix.”
Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg is also enjoys F1’s annual visit to the Ardennes forest in Belgium, and is looking forward to getting back in the car after the sport’s summer break.
“Spa is probably one of my two favourite circuits on the Formula One calendar, along with Suzuka in Japan,” says Rosberg. “It’s not only one of the most challenging tracks that we race at, but it’s also great fun to drive a Formula One car there. The circuit layout has many high-speed areas so it should suit our car well.
“It’s been nice to have a short break over the last few weeks and to spend time relaxing with my family and friends, but it will also be good to get back into the racing rhythm again this weekend. I know that the guys at the factory have also enjoyed the break, and that we will all be pushing hard from now until the end of the season to get the best possible results.”
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn also congratulated Schumacher for reaching this milestone, but said that the Brackley-based team, like most of their rivals, will not be bringing many new parts to Belgium this weekend.
“After the summer break, everyone is looking forward to the second half of the season getting underway in Belgium this weekend,” said Brawn. “Spa is one of those tracks which are universally loved by drivers and fans, and the racing is always thrilling, usually helped by a large dose of inclement weather. It’s a truly classic circuit, and the fast, sweeping corners make it a great venue to watch the cars in action.
“With the two-week shutdown, there has been limited opportunity to develop the car since the last two races in Germany and Hungary, a situation which of course applies to everyone. However, we will be working hard to make the most of the weekend, and look forward to an exciting countdown to the end of the season.
“Congratulations to Michael who marks his 20th anniversary in Formula One this weekend. It has been an honour and a privilege to work so closely with him for 17 of those 20 years, and I look forward to more good times ahead together.”