Autocar's favourite races: 1992 Belgian Grand Prix

The Sunday was long, wet, uncomfortable and I recall feeling hungry for most of it. But it was also fantastic. The coach left Brussels at some god-forsaken hour and once at Spa, I strolled through the woods up the middle of the circuit to Pouhon, the mega-quick double left-hander. There I found a great vantage point, perched on a tuft of grass on the steep bank just on the corner’s entry point. First I watched Oliver Gavin win the Formula Opel race – an early landmark of his own, for a driver I’d come to know well in the years to come – then waited for the grand prix to start.

It was better than I could have hoped. Mansell started from pole position, but fell behind Ayrton Senna’s McLaren early on, before he and Riccardo Patrese reasserted their usual Williams dominance. Then characteristic Spa rainfall threw everything up in the air. While most pitted for treaded rubber Senna gambled on staying out and the conditions improving. They didn’t – and when he finally pitted the great Brazilian dropped out of contention.

Now Michael Schumacher came to the fore. A year earlier, the German had burst on to the F1 scene by qualifying seventh on his debut for Jordan. Now here he was exactly a year on, an established front-runner with Benetton.

It was a mistake that made his day. Schumacher ran off the road at Stavelot and team-mate Martin Brundle, who had gathered a head of steam after a difficult start to the season, moved ahead of him – but as he did so canny Michael spotted the state of the Englishman’s blistered rear tyres. In that moment he decided to stop for slicks – and it was a decision that won him the race. Brundle later admitted he should have dived in himself, but chose not to in his excitement to be ahead of Schumacher, while Mansell switched three laps too late. 

Nigel, already confirmed as world champion by this stage of the season, returned to the track five seconds behind the new leader, but a broken exhaust thwarted his chase. Schumacher, at the 18th time of asking, was a grand prix winner for the first time.


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