RACING legend Michael Schumacher was handed his Formula 1 debut after French driver Bertrand Gachot was imprisoned for Actual Bodily Harm.
Eddie Jordan’s racing team began the 1991 season with the driver pair of Gachot and Andrea de Cesaris.
Bertrand Gachot was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 1991
Gachot’s imprisonment handed Michael Schumacher his F1 debut
But they were soon left a man short when Gachot was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
It was the result of a road rage incident in December 1990 where his car crashed into a taxi.
Following a confrontation, Gachot sprayed the taxi driver with CS gas.
He was subsequently arrested for Actual Bodily Harm.
Gachot learnt that Schumacher had replaced him while he was in jail
This picture was taken outside court before Gachot was found guilty in 1991
When the trial took place nine months later, he was expecting to be handed a fine or suspended prison term.
Instead, Gachot was locked up meaning he could not compete in the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix.
This gave Schumacher his breakthrough opportunity – something Gachot was not aware of until someone told him in jail.
Schumacher ended up qualifying seventh ahead of team-mate De Cesaris in 11th.
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And while he was then forced to retire from the race on the first lap, word soon got back to Gachot about the talented driver that had replaced him.
Speaking about the events on the Beyond The Grid podcast in 2021, Gachot said: “I didn’t know [about Schumacher].
“The first time somebody spoke to me about Michael Schumacher – I won’t forget – is one of the guards in jail.
“He said, ‘The new guy that they hired is so good, they don’t need you anymore. So you can stay here’. I tell you, word for word.”
He added: “Andrea de Cesaris sent me a letter. And that was very funny. I was really good friends with Andrea, and he was an amazing guy.
“He wrote me the letter saying, ‘Don’t worry about the German. He just got me in qualifying, but I will get him soon. You watch.'”
Schumacher ended up joining Benneton-Ford for the remainder of 1991 and managed three top six finishes before the end of the season.
He would go on to win two F1 world titles with Benneton-Ford, before joining Ferrari and claiming another five drivers’ championships.
Meanwhile, Gachot was released from prison after just two months following an appeal.
He drove for the Larrousse team for the rest of the 1991 season and in 1992.
He then finished his F1 career with Pacific Racing, driving for them in 1994 and 1995.
Gachot raced until 1995 following his release from prison
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