The Jordan team took three cars (chassis nos4, 5 and 6) to Spa. Schumacher had never driven the 191 before, but it mattered not.
Using car no5, he immediately went faster than De Cesaris. The Italian suspected something must have been wrong, and therefore changed from no6 to no4, which was the spare.
The young German took over De Cesaris’ rejected no6, to set the eighth fastest time for FP1. The more experienced driver couldn’t better his young team-mate’s time. Schumacher had arrived.
The same happened in qualifying, with the Kerpen kid going seventh fastest, while De Cesaris — now back in car no6 — set a time good enough only for 11th.
“Schumacher’s uninhibited performance was one of the highlights of the two days of practice and qualifying,” Denis Jenkinson wrote in Motor Sport, already referring to Schumacher as the ‘wonder-boy’. “His eighth place in the qualifying times (promoted to seventh later) was the sort of thing that made one sit up and take notice and personally prompted me to journey out to the far end of the circuit to get an idea of how it was achieved.
“It wants to be driven fast, it’s involving to drive”
“Here was a man making the car do what he wanted, when he wanted it, not hanging on to see what the car wanted to do, and this was on a 120mph blind downhill left-hander.”
Schumacher’s first race race lasted two corners after clutch failure, but the point had been made. He was soon off to Benetton and headed for F1 stardom.
De Cesaris was having more like with the no6 car and almost scored a famous debut win for the Silverstone squad.
He was closing down Ayrton Senna for the lead when his engine blew with three laps to go.
Seller Hanson tested chassis no6 himself at Donington recently, and emphasised how it’s one of the peak examples of F1 ’90s performance.