The way a driver had to ap­ply him­self to rac­ing in For­mula 1 had changed for­ever – and they knew it. The podium at the 1992 Bel­gian Grand Prix her­alded the rev­o­lu­tion.

Nigel Mansell, then 39, and his Wil­liams team-mate Ric­cardo Pa­trese, 38, looked weary. Stand­ing be­tween them was a sprightly, ebul­lient Michael Schu­macher, 15 years their ju­nior, who had just taken his first grand prix vic­tory to es­tab­lish him­self as the new heir to the For­mula 1 throne. Barely a bead of sweat stood out on the brow of this young Ger­man as he leapt from the top step.

Schu­macher’s Benet­ton team­mate Martin Brun­dle recog­nised im­me­di­ately his game-chang­ing im­pact: “Michael moved the game for­ward,” he re­calls. “We had to raise our­selves. We had to get fit­ter and stronger and we had to look for ev­ery hun­dredth of a sec­ond. It was clear he was go­ing to be a star of the fu­ture.”

Fast for­ward 14 years, by which point Schu­macher had ac­crued seven world cham­pi­onships, 91 wins and 68 poles to be­come, sta­tis­ti­cally, the most suc­cess­ful driver of all time. He never planned it this way, but his achieve­ments were al­ready hav­ing an ef­fect on rac­ing young­sters in their for­ma­tive years. Th­ese Schumi Wannabes, some of whom have since made it on to the cur­rent F1 grid, watched their hero and, re­gard­less of his some­times ques­tion­able rac­ing ethics, sought to em­u­late his suc­cess.

Some, like Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, who hero-wor­ships Michael to this day, stud­ied ev­ery nu­ance of his be­hav­iour: the work ethic, the at­ti­tude, the pas­sion, the close re­la­tion­ships Michael nur­tured within his team, the way he con­ducted him­self – and his on-track ruth­less­ness.

Schu­macher set new stan­dards in F1, and a gen­er­a­tion of rac­ers knew that to even ap­proach his records, they would have to un­der­stand how he changed the rules of the game. For after Spa

’92, the sport would never be the same again.

Ric­cardo Pa­trese (above left) looks drained on the podium at Spa in ’92. Yet Michael (top) is filled with en­ergy

Fit­ness was a dif­fer­ent beast in the 1980s. Champion Keke Ros­berg would of­ten be seen light­ing a cig­a­rette on the grid...

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