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Man who gave Schumi a start

india Updated: Oct 26, 2012 10:41 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande


Just goes to show you that anything is possible when a man, who quit school at the age of 15, designed the car that allowed Michael Schumacher to shine at Formula 1's best circuit (Spa in Belgium).

Schumacher's seventh place in qualifying practice for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix was the only time he drove in the Gary Anderson-designed Jordan (the team that is now Force India). His immediate pace in a car he praised led to him being snapped up by Benetton for the very next race, with whom he won his first two titles.

"I had no education as such," Anderson told HT. "All through my life, if I like something I work hard at it. When I found motorsport at the age of 20, I felt like this was my life."

Anderson's first big break came in 1972 when he started work as a mechanic at the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham team. He rose to the position of a designer and even worked at McLaren before taking a break from F1 to design his own cars for Formula 3 and other junior series.

A "mad" meeting saw him return to F1 in 1991 with the flamboyant former racing driver Eddie Jordan. "I thought he (Jordan) was mad when he asked me to help him put together a Formula 1 team, and I still think he's mad," said Anderson. "I said no when he first asked me in 1989, but he and my wife convinced me to do it."

The undertaking of setting up and running an F1 team was brutal for Anderson and Jordan's original staff of 28, who put in 14 hours a day every day of the week. But it was all worth it. And, in the hands of Schumacher, the results were spectacular.

"Michael did a test for us at Silverstone and within four laps had gone quicker around the lap than any of our previous drivers had all year," said Anderson.

So how does Anderson feel to see the German seven titles later, struggling in his second F1 career? "Michael brought not only physical but mental fitness to F1 as in, he had a lot more brainpower left to think about things besides driving than other drivers," said Anderson.

"The problem is that as you get older, it goes away and you start to think too much about things.

"That's what I noticed about his career at Mercedes where he thought too much about signing a contract," continued Anderson. "Had he been faster about it, Lewis (Hamilton) never would have been offered the drive and Michael would still be in F1."