Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

F1's Back to the Future or thank you, Gianni Morbidelli - What if Gachot had not sprayed that taxi driver?

Published by Jordan F1

I have been thinking about F1's biggest "what if?" - about Gachot not spraying that taxi driver in London with CS gas and how it affects Michael Schumacher’s career. For the year 1991, I have three different viewpoints, two of which are based on facts and one of which is a rumour which was made by a team to cover its tracks.

First to simplify things, let us say that we only have the ability to make the one small change to F1 history in 1991, and that done, things like the order that the cars finished a race stays the same after qualifying for the Belgium Grand Prix for every race. (Basically I am saying that Michael Schumacher drives no better than Roberto Moreno did at Benetton, and looking at their results at Benetton, it was a safe assumption).

Furthermore, I see that this one slight change directly affects the outcome of Alex Zanardi, as Gachot’s replacement at Jordan, and for this we have no way of guessing what the immediate future will hold of him. At the end of the 1991 to the start of 1992 season, we also have no idea of the effect that our one slight change has beyond some idea of who’s contract is still valid for which team. However, with Benetton being able to get Schumacher from Jordan in real history, it surely seems more than possibility that Benetton will have Schumacher in 1992, and thus the line-up of 1992 in our alternate history looks like it has no surprises from the actual 1992 line up, but that is another story.

The more we project our slight little change into the future, the more uncertain and more difficult it is for us to return to actual present. Therefore this “what if” will only concentrate on the events of the 1991 season until its conclusion. So grab a baseball cap and act sullen. Let us set our Wayback time machine (cleverly disguised as a red British Public Telephone Booth) to 1991 and use the cutest girl we have to hail the Taxi Cab that was meant for Gachot to take us to Heathrow Airport (do not worry, we can take the tube back to London).

Gachot takes the next cab, and not needing to use his CS canister against this new taxi cab driver Gachot gets to race in the '91 Belgium Grand Prix for Jordan after all. Sadly, due to our inability to control further events from the time of catching Gachot’s cab our 'European driver from parts unsure' retires on the first lap due to clutch problems! Looking at how his replacements did historically, and Gachot being roughly equal in capability to them all it is not too hard to see Gachot still getting just a couple of ninth place finishes, a tenth place finish and bunch of retirements. Either way, shall history be changed by saying Mauricio Gugelmin will be replacing Gachot for the 1992 season instead of Stefano Modena? Six of one and half a dozen of the other to me.

Now what happens to Schumacher?

1) Based on historical facts as to the order of precedence that Mercedes wanted their Sportcars drivers to enter F1, namely Schumacher, Wendlinger, and Frentzen: a) The result was that Schumacher got a deal with Jordan after Gachot sprayed the taxi driver. Wendlinger gets a two race deal with Leyton House, replacing Ivan Capelli. And Frenzten has to drive sportcars for Mercedes. b) So with Capelli leaving Leyton House and Gachot getting a tenth and nineth place finishes (actual result for Moreno and Zanardi) Schumacher is the first driver available at Mercedes to enter F1 - with Leyton House! The real funny thing is, just looking at the actual results of the last two races in the 1991, it would have turned out better for Michael, getting a 20th place in Australia as opposed to the double retirements in the Benetton...

2) There is a possibility that is based on the rumour that Roberto Moreno was too in awe of his teammate Nelson Piquet. This seems silly to me, as Benetton’s results overall were reasonably close, with Piquet being a former world champion after all. On the flip side of the coin, Piquet was the one who had the higher positions, especially on the few times they both finished the race. But it was Benetton who dumped Moreno to get Schumacher from Jordan so I will pretend for this theory that Benetton was looking for the right driver to sack Moreno with and we have Schumacher joining Benetton sometime after the Belgium Grand Prix. Boy what Mystic abilities are displayed here. But the important difference here is that Schumacher has joined Benetton directly from the Mercedes Sportscar program! The more I think about this possibility the more I doubt that Benetton would take a risk on a rookie German driver… maybe one on that has a few races under his belt at Leyton House.

3) My last idea has Alain Prost complaining that his Ferrari is a truck to drive one too many times and well, it is Gianni Morbidelli (who?), Dario Benuzzi (wha?), Andrea Montermini (Ferrari had a female test driver?), or “German rookie” to the rescue - filling in for the fired Frenchman. If you are having as tough a time trying to remember who these people are as I am (Andrea could be both a guy and gal’s name in Italian after all), then can you really blame Ferrari for punting a “German rookie” on the last race of the F1 season so that your "nobody" test drivers can continue work on the 1992 car? (No hindsight here, but the 1992 Ferrari needed a lot more work to be done to it at the end of 1992 season to make it into a racing car). Let us face it, Ferrari went after and still does go after “veteran” F1 drivers and there were better odds of finding a snowball in Hell than a rookie at Ferrari, right?

If we reflect back, under the theory that Schumacher was the most available driver at Mercedes, we would have found Schumacher driving for Leyton House as a worst case situation for the final two races of the 1991 season. That is, unless Benetton was ready to sack Moreno to the point of hiring a rookie driver, which face it, was not that unlikely. Either way, we have Schumacher in 1992 with March (previously known as Leyton House, under the same terms as the historical Windlinger deal) or more likely Benetton. (Either by getting him from direct from Mercedes to replace Moreno or more likely getting him from Leyton House before they become March.)

Anyway, dial up our co-ordinates to get back home (yes, it’s a rotary dial, it is 1991, after all), and drop £2,000 for the long distance fee (£2,000 is way more than a ton of money) into the slot, ‘cause I do not think we can reverse the charges. “Out of Service! Even in the future, nothing works!” Stupid British Telecom.