Probably more famous for being Steffi Graf’s squeeze during his F1 career than for his F1 career itself, Bartels had a four-round stint with Lotus in 1991, in which he failed to qualify for a single race.
Born in Plettenberg, Germany, Bartels won the 1985 national karting championship and the 1986 German Formula Ford 1600 championship.
Bartels was drafted into the financially struggling Lotus team in the 1991 season at selected rounds to substitute for the team’s regular driver, Johnny Herbert, who was contractually committed to other racing commitments.
In spite of making his debut with a home-town advantage at Hockenheim, he failed to make the grid by less than 0.3s, thanks largely due to the Lotus Judd 102B chassis being very long in the tooth (essentially, it was the team’s car from 1990).
The next round at Hungary saw Bartels slowest of the 30 qualifying hopefuls, and he missed the cut by almost 1 second, with his team-mate Mika Hakkinen scraping onto the grid in 26th and last place.
Herbert was back in at Belgium, but Bartels returned for a third attempt at the next round in Monza, where he again failed to qualify, this time he was 28th-quickest and short of the grid by about 0.4s. Michael’s final F1 appearance was at the new Circuit de Catalunya, and he was miles off making the cut to join the grid that Sunday.
After his failed F1 attempt, Bartels dropped down to F3000 in 1992, and moved to the DTM where he peaked with the top privateer ranking in the 1994 season.
By no means should Michael’s F1 results be indication as to his talent, for he is a two-time 24 Hours Nürburgring (2000, 2001) and three-time Spa 24 Hours winner (2005, 2006, 2008). Racing for Maserati in the FIA GT Championship, Bartels has won the last two titles alongside Andrea Bertolini.
[Image via Skyscraper Pictures]
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