The 2001 Belgian GP: Schumacher’s 52nd Win – Gone Where No Man Had Gone Before!
The 2001 F1 Season
By the time the teams reached Belgium in 2001, Michael Schumacher was already the drivers’ world champion while Ferrari was the constructors’ world champion. As such, the 2001 season's verdict was out except one thing. What is that, you ask?
Well, Michael Schumacher was standing at the cusp of history. His world championship victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix also brought him equal with Alain Prost’s eight-year-old record of 51 wins. Which meant that the next race Michael would win would make him the only driver to achieve 52 successes. It was an unprecedented event.
For one, Michael would be at ease because the 2001 season was settled, and therefore, there would be no pressure. So, technically, he could go for the record without any worry or expectation. However, butterflies in the tummy could never be ruled out. Would Michael Schumacher break the record in Belgium?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
The Spa circuit must be a special place for Michael Schumacher.
This is the circuit where Michael debuted in 1991, this is where he won his first race in 1992 and this is where he broke the F1 record for most wins in 2001, going past Prost’s 51 wins.
The 2001 Belgian GP Qualifying
The Belgian GP qualifying came along with its usual guest – the rains. The qualifying saw wet tracks early on which started to dry as the session progressed. Michael Schumacher set the provisional pole lap which appeared beatable by the dying minutes of the qualifying session. Take a look.
Suggestion: Video is not in English. Viewers can mute the video and watch.
Most of the front row qualifiers did their laps in the last minutes of the session. About three minutes before the end, Montoyo, Ralf Schumacher, Barrichello and Frentzen made use of the drying track to out-qualify Michael Schumacher in that order. So, Michael was relegated to the third row of the grid.
We can also see Prost celebrating as Frentzen, representing Alain’s team, qualified in the fourth spot. That was a proud moment for the team.
2001 Belgian GP – Race Day
The Belgian GP would be one of the races with the most restarts. Before the first start, Frentzen and Montoya stalled their engines and were therefore placed last on the grid. So, on the repositioned grid, Ralf led Barrichello and then Michael Schumacher. The race started with Ralf pulling away from both the Ferraris and staying in the lead. The position stayed so until Michael overtook Ralf and sped away. A fighting Luciano Burti touched Eddie’s Jaguar leading to a near-fatal accident. The race was halted, and Luciano was taken-off the track safely.
You can watch the race summary here:
It must have been a bit sad for Alain Prost as both his drivers, Frentzen and Burti, ran out of luck. That said, the restarted race saw Ralf Schumacher losing track position as well since his car was not fixed by the time the race restarted. After Ralf’s relegation, the race finally took off, and Schumacher led the rest of the race to victory.
That’s how Schumacher’s fifty-second victory came about, and he went past one of the longest-standing records of Alain Prost!
Did You Know?
When Michael Schumacher broke Alain Prost’s record of 51 wins in the 2001 Belgian GP, Prost was there.
Alain was the team boss of the Prost team and a witness to Schumacher’s incredible, record-breaking 52nd win.
Back to the Garage
Schumacher became a legend at the end of the Belgian GP in 2001, simply by doing something no one had done before in Formula 1. It must have been an exciting time as from that day onwards with every win Schumacher rewrote history.
With the benefit of hindsight, now we know that the history creation continued unabated until 2006 when Schumacher won his 91st and last GP.
© 2020 S K