“He went like a missile, straight away”
After his promising performance (7th) in the Jordan in qualifying for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, Michael Schumacher, still quite unknown for most of the Formula One community, was called up by Benetton for a secret test, with the intention to evaluate the young German.
Engineer Giorgio Ascanelli, who had joined Benetton from Ferrari in 1990, was present at the test and was clearly impressed, with not only the speed of Michael Schumacher, but also his composure. He remembers: “He was called by us for the secret Benetton test. He went like a missile straight away, lapping well inside the times of Piquet. When he stopped we said, “You don’t have to push so hard,” and he said quite openly, “But I wasn’t really trying.”
Such was the strong impression of someone who had closely worked with the likes of Gerhard Berger and Nelson Piquet. A week later, the big news filtered: in a deal brokered by Bernie Ecclestone himself with Flavio Briatore, Schumacher had signed for Benetton, while still being under contract to Jordan.
After much legal wrangling and payed compensations to Jordan, the German was confirmed at Benetton, while Roberto Moreno went the other way, taking Schumacher’s place at Jordan. Schumacher went on to qualify in seventh, and score his first championship points with a fifth place finish… 12 seconds ahead of his team mate Nelson Piquet!