Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Twenty years on - Schumacher reflects on debut doubts 26 Aug 2011

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 25 August 2011 Michael Schumacher (GER) Jordan 191. Formula One World Championship. Belgian Grand Prix, Spa, Belgium. 25 August 1991. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 25 August 2011 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 25 August 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 25 August 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP Test Driver walks the circuit with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 25 August 2011

As he faces the 20th anniversary of his Formula One debut, here in 1991, Michael Schumacher admits that he wasn’t even sure that he could be competitive with the big boys.

“It’s an unusual situation and certainly not something to be expected from the beginning,” he said, “but I’m proud to be here, and glad. As I often call it, Spa’s my living room and a very particular place where lots of things, great things and special things, have happened. It is obviously a perfect scenario to celebrate this moment.

“The main point when I started was that if you are not a Formula One driver, at least myself, I was doubtful whether my quality was good enough to compete with those guys. You see them as untouchables, especially in those moments where you had Sennas, Prosts, Mansells and so on. I didn’t really think I could match them.

“Getting the first experience, coming over here and driving the car, I sort of quickly picked up the confidence that it was possible and from there on we all know. At the end of the day we are all humans, we all have limits and you drive within those and there is no reason why it is impossible to beat those guys in the past and neither these guys that are here right now. That’s the good thing about Formula One. It is always a motivating challenge that is great fun.”

He is adamant that he can still beat the limits, despite recent criticism of his driving and speculation that he might yet retire before his intended three-year return is completed.

“There are different limitations, yeah, by the rulebook, physically, because the rulebook always leaves you certain grey zones and leaves you clear guidelines at some moments. You have always to adapt to those guidelines and to those changes and that’s obviously the limits that you search for and occasionally you may overstep (those limits) and you may take the penalty for it.

“Certainly I guess in every person’s career, you look at it and you think well, what has happened, you take a summary, you almost make an account. And I have to say in my case, taking the 20 years, taking everything that I’ve been doing…. certainly, going backwards, I would do certain things differently. But then in life you have to make some mistakes in order to understand it is a mistake and to sort of set your guidelines. All in all, I guess the vest that I’m wearing, that I’m wearing inside me, is pretty white, and I’m pretty happy about this. I don’t have many regrets and overall, I certainly feel very excited and proud of what has happened.”

Much as he’d like to add an official seventh win to his tally (he won in 1994 before being penalised), he is under few illusions about his chances this weekend.

“We have to face the reality and the reality is that at the moment we are sort of the fourth-strongest team and the gaps to the front are unfortunately too big to battle with those guys unless there are unusual circumstances. Maybe this track potentially suits us a little bit more but the gaps are too big to really make an impression to the guys up front so seventh and eighth that’s our possible target that we can achieve and that’s what we are going to aim for.”

Bruno Senna, meanwhile, says he is aiming to get as close to team mate Vitaly Petrov as he returns to active cockpit duty in place of Nick Heidfeld at Renault.

“It’s going to be a big challenge to come back into the middle of the season,” the 27 year-old Brazilian admits. “But I have been participating in all the meetings with the engineers so I have been very much up to date with what is going on in the team. The Friday in Hungary was very useful for me to get a feel for the car. But, of course, it is going to be a big uphill battle to get up to the level of these guys who have been racing for 11 races now. The fact that it is here, in Spa, is very special. It is my favourite circuit and a circuit that historically I have done very well on so I am really looking forward to it. I hope I can progress fast and hopefully do a good job for these guys because it is the best way to appreciate the opportunity that they are giving me.

“Friday in Hungary was really, really difficult but again I only had one set of tyres. I know I will be having to learn how to deal with the tyres from the first set all the way to the sets in qualifying and then again learning how to deal with the tyres for the race as that will be my first experience with the Pirellis on high fuel going to low fuel.

“All this experience I don’t have so if I can be anywhere near Petrov that would be a good reference.”

David Tremayne

For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.