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Michael Schumacher

7 Time World Champion

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher - A driver like no other: 

Michael Schumacher was a renowned Formula One driver known for his ability to deliver fast laps when it mattered most and push his car to its limits for extended periods. He was also noted for his pioneering fitness routine and team leadership. In 2004, Slate magazine hailed him as the "ultimate driving machine" and the most dominant athlete globally, attributing his success to his rigorous training in the weight room. Schumacher's dedication to fitness included four-hour daily workouts, particularly focusing on strengthening his neck muscles to withstand G-forces during races.

Schumacher's driving style was analyzed in 2003, revealing his sensitive and flexible approach to gas and brakes, which set him apart from his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello. He often braked later into corners, balanced his car with simultaneous brake and accelerator use, and adapted his style to protect the brakes when necessary. Schumacher excelled in wet conditions, winning 17 of the 30 wet races he participated in, earning him nicknames like "Regenkönig" (rain king) and "Regenmeister" (rain master).

He played a significant role in popularizing Formula One globally, especially in Germany, where it was previously a niche sport. Despite facing anti-German prejudices, he paved the way for younger German drivers like Sebastian Vettel. In 2020, Vettel named Schumacher the greatest Formula One driver of all time.

Schumacher was also known for his leadership off the track, serving as the president of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association for a significant part of his Formula One career. In 2006, rivals and legends of the sport, including David Coulthard and Niki Lauda, praised him as the greatest all-round racing driver in Formula One history. Additionally, in 2020, he was voted the most influential person in Formula One history.

Jordan - 1991 

In 1991, Michael Schumacher made his Formula One debut with the Jordan-Ford team at the Belgian Grand Prix, taking over car number 32 for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot. Mercedes, his contracted team, paid Jordan $150,000 for this opportunity. Schumacher impressed Jordan's team with a test drive at Silverstone the week before the race, and despite not knowing the Spa-Francorchamps circuit well, he qualified seventh, matching the team's best grid position of the season. He out-qualified his teammate, Andrea de Cesaris, and garnered praise from the paddock, with some journalists comparing him to the talented Stefan Bellof. Unfortunately, Schumacher's race ended prematurely due to clutch problems on the first lap.

Benetton - 1991 - 1995

After his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1991, where he raced for Jordan-Ford, Michael Schumacher was initially set to continue racing for Jordan for the rest of the season, per an agreement in principle with his Mercedes management. However, he was signed by Benetton-Ford for the next race, leading Jordan to seek an injunction in British courts to prevent Schumacher from driving for Benetton. They lost the case because no final contract had been signed.

In the 1991 season, Schumacher competed in six races, earning a total of four points. His best result was a fifth-place finish at the Italian Grand Prix, where he outperformed his teammate Nelson Piquet, a three-time World Champion.

At the start of the 1992 season, Sauber, a team with Mercedes backing, had a contractual claim on Schumacher if Mercedes entered Formula One. Ultimately, Schumacher stayed with Benetton, and the season was dominated by Williams cars driven by Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese. Schumacher achieved his first podium finish, taking third place at the Mexican Grand Prix. He secured his first victory at the Belgian Grand Prix in a wet race at Spa-Francorchamps, a track he later considered his favorite. He finished third in the Drivers' Championship in 1992 with 53 points.

In 1993, Williams continued to dominate, but Benetton introduced active suspension and traction control. Schumacher won one race, the Portuguese Grand Prix, and had nine podium finishes but retired in seven of the other 16 races. He ended the season in fourth place with 52 points, facing strong competition from the likes of Damon Hill and Alain Prost. Schumacher was seen as a significant threat by fellow drivers, including Ayrton Senna.

1994 & 1995 F1 World Champion

In 1994, Michael Schumacher won his first Formula One Drivers' Championship, but the season was overshadowed by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. There were also allegations of rule violations, particularly by Schumacher's Benetton team.

Schumacher had a strong start to the season, winning six of the first seven races. He displayed remarkable skill during the Spanish Grand Prix, where a gearbox failure left him stuck in fifth gear for most of the race. Despite this setback, he finished second, earning praise from Benetton boss Flavio Briatore. Following the San Marino Grand Prix, Benetton, Ferrari, and McLaren faced investigation for suspected breaches of the FIA's ban on electronic aids. Both Benetton and McLaren were initially uncooperative but eventually complied. While both teams had hidden functionality in their software, no evidence suggested its use in races. Both teams were fined for their initial refusal to cooperate. The Benetton software, deemed a form of "launch control," was outlawed, although no evidence of its use was found.

Schumacher faced controversy during the British Grand Prix when he overtook Damon Hill on the formation lap, leading to a disqualification and a two-race ban. He was also disqualified after winning the Belgian Grand Prix due to illegal wear on his car's skidblock. Despite these incidents, Schumacher entered the final race in Australia leading the championship by one point. On lap 36, he collided with the guardrail while leading, leading to a collision with Hill. Both retired, and Schumacher won the championship amid mixed opinions and criticism in the British media. He dedicated his title to Ayrton Senna.

In 1995, Schumacher successfully defended his title with Benetton, despite Williams having a superior car. He accumulated 33 more points than the second-placed Hill and helped Benetton win its first Constructors' Championship. Schumacher won nine of the 17 races and finished on the podium 11 times, securing his second consecutive championship. The season was marked by several clashes with Hill, including incidents at the British and Italian Grands Prix. Schumacher's dominant performance solidified his status as a formidable driver in Formula One.

Ferrari - 1996 - 2006

In 1996, Michael Schumacher made a significant move to Ferrari, a team that had not won the Drivers' Championship since 1979 and the Constructors' Championship since 1983. He signed a lucrative two-year contract worth $60 million, leaving Benetton a year before his contract expired due to his dissatisfaction with the team's actions in 1994.

Schumacher's arrival at Ferrari marked a turning point for the team, which had struggled for years. Ferrari had come close to championships in 1982 and 1990 but experienced a downturn in the early 1990s. Their V12 engine was no longer competitive against the smaller, lighter, and more fuel-efficient V10 engines used by their rivals. The team's pit crews were also known for poor performance. Although Ferrari had improved by the end of 1995, they were still considered inferior to teams like Benetton and Williams. Despite initial skepticism, Schumacher believed in the potential of the Ferrari F310 and declared it capable of winning a championship.

Schumacher's impact on Ferrari was significant, as he, along with key figures like Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, transformed the struggling team into the most successful in Formula One history. This transformation has been hailed as Schumacher's greatest achievement, as he played a pivotal role in turning Ferrari into a championship-winning force in Formula One.

The gold years of Ferrari and Schumacher - 2000 - 2004

From 2000 to 2004, Michael Schumacher achieved remarkable success in Formula One:

  • In 2000, he won his third World Drivers' Championship and his first with Ferrari. Schumacher started the season strong with three consecutive wins and led for most of the year. He faced a tough challenge from Mika Häkkinen but secured the championship at the penultimate race, the Japanese Grand Prix, after an intense battle.

  • In 2001, Schumacher clinched his fourth Drivers' title with ease. He dominated the season with a record-tying nine wins, finishing 58 points ahead of David Coulthard. Highlights included a 1–2 finish with his brother Ralf at the Canadian Grand Prix and breaking Alain Prost's record for career wins at the Belgian Grand Prix.

  • In 2002, Schumacher retained his title, although there was controversy at the Austrian Grand Prix when teammate Rubens Barrichello was ordered to let him win. Schumacher's dominance continued with a record-breaking 11 wins in the season, and he secured the championship with six races to spare.

  • Schumacher won his sixth Drivers' Championship in 2003 after a closely contested battle with rivals from McLaren and Williams. Despite some setbacks, Schumacher won crucial races and maintained his lead in the points standings, ultimately securing the title at the Japanese Grand Prix.

  • In 2004, Schumacher had a historic season, winning 12 out of the first 13 races and securing his seventh Drivers' Championship title at the Belgian Grand Prix. He ended the season with a record 148 points and 13 race wins out of 18, solidifying his status as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.

Schumacher's achievements during this period firmly established him as a dominant force in Formula One, breaking multiple records and earning acclaim as one of the sport's all-time greats.

Schumacher's first retirement: 

In the 2005 Formula One season, rule changes requiring tires to last an entire race favored teams using Michelins over those relying on Bridgestone tires like Ferrari. Schumacher faced challenges throughout the season, notably his battle with Renault's Fernando Alonso in San Marino. However, Schumacher found it difficult to compete and expressed frustration, saying that he couldn't count himself in the championship battle.

Schumacher's sole win in 2005 came at the United States Grand Prix, a race marred by tire safety concerns that led to the withdrawal of most teams using Michelin tires. Schumacher retired in six of the 19 races and finished the season in third place with 62 points, far behind World Champion Alonso.

In 2006, Schumacher's final season with Ferrari, he faced a tough start, falling behind Alonso in the championship. He won two races but also faced controversy, including being stripped of pole position at Monaco. Schumacher rallied in the mid-season, winning several races and briefly leading the championship. After his win in Italy, Ferrari announced his retirement from racing at the end of the season, but he would continue working for the team.

In his last race before his first retirement, Schumacher led the Japanese Grand Prix but suffered an engine failure, handing victory to Alonso. His final race in Brazil was marked by a heroic performance, as he overcame difficulties, including a puncture, to finish in fourth place, earning praise and admiration for his remarkable drive.