Jordan reveals deal he did with Faldo to make Schumacher’s F1 test debut happen

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Former Formula 1 team principal Eddie Jordan has revealed he had to pull strings with golfing star Nick Faldo in order to ensure Michael Schumacher could take part in the test which led to his grand prix debut.

Jordan found himself in need of a replacement for Bertrand Gachot at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at short notice after his regular driver was imprisoned over an altercation involving a taxi driver. He chose to test Schumacher, who at the time was driving for Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship.

However Jordan’s hopes of testing the 22-year-old in one of his cars at the Silverstone circuit next to the team’s factory were initially dashed.

“I desperately needed to test a car at Silverstone because we needed to run a driver who had never run in Formula 1 before,” Jordan told the Formula For Success podcast. “But I couldn’t get on to Silverstone because it had been booked by somebody.”

The circuit staff wouldn’t reveal who had booked the circuit. “So I jumped in my car, drove over to Silverstone to find none other than six-times major winner Nick Faldo in his 956 Porsche, which he couldn’t insure for the road, so he had hired the track for the day.”

Jordan and Faldo agreed to share the track. “I said to him ‘Nick I think we might have to come to some sort of a compromise here and a little bit of a deal.

“What if you would do me a massive, massive favour, when you’re not running the car could we run and when we’re not running you could run?’ And after a little bit of argy-bargy he struck a deal with me.”

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Faldo drove the Jordan 191 Schumacher tested, though he faced the inevitable challenges of fitting his 1.93-metre frame into the cockpit.

Feature: “He was on it from the word go” – Schumacher’s debut remembered
“Nick, when he tried to get in the car, couldn’t – as you could expect, because these cars are tiny things – so we had to squeeze him in sideways. The only problem was we couldn’t actually get the steering wheel on and that was a major job. If anything had happened I would have been up for manslaughter as this was suicidal, it should never have happened.

“But he wanted to drive the car at all costs. And he did drive the car. He would probably tell us how well he drove it, but we know different. But anyway, that’s Nick, he’s an absolute champion.”

Schumacher made his grand prix debut for Jordan in the following race at Spa-Francorchamps, then was lured away by rivals Benetton and within three years had won his first of seven world championships driving for them. Faldo only learned the significance of his deal with Jordan at Silverstone several years after that.

“About 10 years later he rang me up,” Jordan recalled, “he said ‘Look EJ, I just need to clear up something? Could you tell me, was the person that was in that car of yours that day, somebody’s told me that was Michael Schumacher’s first ever time in a Formula 1 car.” And that is a true story.

“It was Michael Schumacher’s first time in an F1 car, Nick Faldo gave him the laps on the track, we gave Nick the car to drive around. Everyone went home happy, and in particular Nick Faldo. He now tells everybody because he’s gloating on the fact that he actually tested the same car as the great Michael Schumacher.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “Jordan reveals deal he did with Faldo to make Schumacher’s F1 test debut happen”

  1. Brilliant! Love these kind of stories.

  2. Sounds like Faldo, and the story, may have got taller over the years…

  3. Eddie and his stories, are often very true, but he can be an unreliable narrator. I’m surprised Gary Anderson or anyone else has never mentioned this. Anyone at the BRDC, or Michael or anyone else from Jordan at the time or even Faldo mentioning he drove an F1 car.

    It’s probably true, but 30+ years and nobody said anything, and then Eddie decided to? I dunno, it just sounds like Eddie to me. Doing the things he does.

  4. I remember at an Autumn British Touring Car race day at the Silverstone National circuit in 1993, we could hear amazing sounding F1 cars simultaneously testing on the South circuit, and the poor stewards clearly got sick of telling enquiring spectators, “No you can’t access it to watch the F1 testing.” (They soon abbreviated it to “Just no” before any question had even been asked…).

    But early in the afternoon, the commentator announced that McLaren had agreed for Mika Hakkinen to do 3 extremely fast impromptu laps of the National circuit just for the fans, which was a massively popular, generous and memorable move.

    I believe it was Hakkinen’s last test before his race debut for the team in Portugal where he immediately outqualified Senna. So us lucky few got an early glimpse of a legend just before it became clear to everyone. (I appreciate that he had previously raced for Lotus, but that qualifying session massively elevated his stock).

    1. That’s a nice story. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
    16th March 2023, 18:13

    This is such a great story, and unknown for all these years. I was a fan of Faldo during the 90’s – who knew such a connection existed.

  6. Amazingly fun fact!

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