- January 03, 1969
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Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver in the history of Formula One with seven championship titles between 1994 and 2004. His F1 career lasted for more than 20 years, from a debut with Jordan in 1991 to last season with Mercedes in 2012.
Between those two teams, he was driving for Benetton, taking two championship titles in 1994 and 1995, and then for Scuderia Ferrari, capturing five more consecutive titles from 2000 to 2004.
Successful karting pilot as a teenager
Michael Schumacher was born born on January 3, 1969, in the town of Hürth. His racing career started when he was just four years old when his father, who has always been a big influence, modified a go-kart with a motorcycle engine.
By the time he was a teenager, Schumacher won German and European kart championships, quit school and started working as a mechanic.
Formula König champion in 1988, F3 champion in 1990
Then the single-seater racing came in Formula Ford and Formula König which he won in 1988. In 1990, Schumacher started racing in German Formula Three and won the title in his debut year. The same year he also triumphed at Macau Grand Prix.
Soon, he joined a Mercedes Junior team and participated in 1990 and 1991 World Sports Prototype Championship driving Sauber–Mercedes C11, achieved notable results and also made one appearance in DTM series and in the Japanese Formula 3000. In 1991, Schumacher also made his only appearance in 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving for Team Sauber Mercedes alongside Karl Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointner, they finished 5th which was a good result for the young crew.
Formula 1 debut with Jordan
During the season of 1991, Schumacher competed in various championships but a debut in Formula 1 was definitely the highlight. He got an opportunity to drive for Team Jordan at Spa as a substitute for Bertrand Gachot.
Michael was sensational in the qualifying after scoring 7th best lap time but the race ended ingloriously when the clutch on his car failed right after the start.
Five F1 starts with Benetton in 1991
Schumi was planned to drive for Jordan until the end of the season after the team owned by the Irish businessman made an agreement with Mercedes but Benetton team engaged German driver for the remaining five races.
At the Italian Grand Prix, Schumacher scored his first F1 points by finishing 5th. Later he picked a point in Portugal and in Spain and finished 14th overall in the championship.
Paving the way to the top with Benetton
Schumi stayed with Benetton in 1992 and spend four years with the Italian team. He proved that he has the speed and talent but he was still an uncut gem.
Driving a good car, Schumi had an excellent chance to pick experience without a pressure and over the years he regularly was among the best drivers on the grid.
Maiden F1 victory at 1992 Belgian Grand Prix
In the second race of the season, the Mexican Grand Prix, German ace scored his maiden podium place by finishing third. Later he scored four podiums before claiming his maiden victory. At the Belgian Grand Prix, he dominantly beat Nigel Mansell who later won his first and only title. By the end of the year, Benetton driver had other two podiums and then he took the 3rd place in the Drivers’ championship.
The 1993 season was pretty similar to the previous one. Schumacher finished 4th overall, mainly because of too many retirements. He failed to finish 7 out of 16 races but in the remaining 9 he was always at the podium. The highlight of the year was a triumph in the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Two Formula 1 titles in a row with Benetton
Finally, in 1994, Schumacher reached the throne of Formula 1. Driving a controversial Benetton B194-Ford, he won five out of six opening races and finished 2nd once. However, the second half of the season wasn’t as good. He was disqualified from the British Grand Prix, later from the Belgian Grand Prix, too, and was also suspended in Italy and Portugal. However, he won in Hungary and at Jerez, so before the final race of the season in Australia, Michael had a one-point advantage to Damon Hill.
During the race, when Hill tried to overtake his rival, Schumacher caused a collision which forced both cars to retire, so Michael became the first German driver who won Formula 1 title
In 1995, Schumi easily defended his crown, with a margin of 33 points to the runner-up Hill. He became the youngest two-time champion in the Formula 1 history and also helped Benetton win its first Constructors’ title. He won 9 out of 17 races that year.
Racing with Ferrari since 1996
After winning two consecutive titles, Schumi left Benetton a year before his contract expired. The German decided to join Ferrari who desperately needed a star driver in an attempt to break through to the top after many disappointing years.
The fans of ’Prancing Pony’ were delighted with the arrival of the champion. At the same time, Ferrari has strengthened the technical part of the team but reaching the top wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
Three wins in the first season with Ferrari
His first season with the Italian giant expectedly was marked with ups and downs. However, Schumacher won three races, which was more than the team scored in the previous four years.
The Ferrari F310 wasn’t reliable enough, especially in the first half of the season but Schumacher was calm and patient. He finished third that year behind two Williams drivers, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, but helped Ferrari to take the 2nd place in the Constructors’ championship.
1997 was a controversial season
The following season was a step forward. Schumacher and Villeneuve battled for the title throughout the season. Canadian driver scored seven wins before the last race at Jerez, while Schumacher won in five events but his form was more consistent and he had a lead of one point. Schumacher started better in the final race of the season but on lap 48 Villeneuve used an opportunity to overtake his rival.
Just like in 1994, when Schumacher tried to hit-out his rival from the race causing a collision. The German retired from the race while the Canadian managed to continue and eventually finished 3rd which was enough to grab the championship title.
Schumacher was disqualified from the championship by FIA for unsportsmanlike conduct for the collision but the results he achieved in the races during 1997 still counted. However, after this season, Schumacher’s reputation was further tarnished.
Losing a battle against Hakkinen in 1998
In 1998, German driver was again the title contender but again ended a season empty-handed. McLaren’s cars were superior to Ferrari’s but Schumacher was in the game until the last race of the year. At the end, Mika Hakkinen was crowned as a champion, leaving Schumi as a runner-up, 14 points behind.
Schumacher’s form was particularly good in the second half of the 1998 season. He scored a total of six wins that year and had other five podium spots. One of the memorable races for Ferrari was the French Grand Prix in which Schumacher won, while Eddie Irvine was 2nd which was the first 1-2 finish for the team after eight years.
The following season was a big step backward. The results weren’t that bad because Michael won two races in the first half of the season. At the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, he lost control of the car and crashed. The outcome was a broken leg which forced him to miss the next six races. Schumi returned for the last two races of the year and helped Ferrari to win 1999 Constructors’ championship title.
Beginning of Schumacher's supremacy in 2000
The arrival of the new millennium was marked by the beginning of the reign of the German driver. Schumacher and Ferrari were dominant five years in a row. The beginning of 2000 campaign was brilliant after the Ferrari’s ace won three races in a row. Later he added another two victories to his account but his form dropped in the middle of the season. Hakkinen was only two points behind the German driver but Schumi fought back in great style. After finishing 2nd at Hungaroring and Spa, he won the last four races of the season and clinched his third title.
The following year, Schumacher was almost untouchable. He won his fourth title in great style, winning 9 out of 17 races, and having 11 pole positions and a total of 14 podiums, with only two retirements. He was so superior that the championship battle was decided four races before the end of the season.
Breaking the Fangio’s record
In 2002, Schumacher became a second driver who won the Formula 1 Championship five times, after Juan Manuel Fangio. Ferrari was again absolutely superior to the rest of the grid. The red cars won 15 out of 17 races that year (Schumacher set then-record of 11 wins, Rubens Barrichello won 4 races) and the team easily won the Constructors’ Championship, with a points total that equaled the combined sum of points collected by all other constructors. Michael finished the season 67 points ahead of his teammate who was the championship runner-up. The German racer also set the record for the shortest time in which the Drivers’ Championship had been clinched – with six races to go.
Fangio’s record was broken in 2003 when Schumacher won the title for the sixth time but after a big and exciting battle against Williams and McLaren. The start of the campaign didn’t go well for the German who failed to reach the podium in the opening three races. However, the results became better after Michael won four out of following five races and took the overall lead. Another performance drop was at the beginning of the second half of the year when Schumi had only one top 3 finish out of five races. Luckily for him, the German won the races in Italy and in the US and with the 8th place in Japan he clinched another title.
The seventh title was the last one
Schumacher’s record-breaking streak continued in 2004 when he won the seventh and the last title. This campaign was probably the best in his career as he won 13 out of 18 races and had a total of 15 podiums. That was a really fantastic season for the champion as he won 12 out of the first 13 races of the season, only failing to finish in Monaco after an accident with Juan Pablo Montoya during a safety car period.
Probably that moment was the best for the retirement but Michael stayed with Ferrari for another two years. In 2005, he wasn’t able to continue his supremacy and had to settle for the 3rd place, with only one race win and far behind Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the Drivers’ championship.
The following year was much better as he was the title contender until the very end of the season. German driver scored seven wins, just like the champion Alonso, but the Spaniard’s form was more consistent and he won another title, this time by a margin of 13 points. That was Schumacher’s last year with Ferrari. After the Italian Grand Prix, the team announced that he will retire at the end of the season. However, he stayed with Scuderia for another three years and worked as an advisor and a test driver, on both formula and sports cars.
The new beginning with Mercedes
In December of 2009, it was announced that Schumi will return to Formula 1 and join a newly-formed Mercedes GP. He signed a three-year contract with Mercedes and his role was much bigger because he wasn't just a driver. His huge experience and knowledge played an important role in building the team. It was obvious that Michael passed his peak but was still a valuable driver who made a big impact on his teammate Nico Rosberg.
During three years with Mercedes, the results were far below Schumacher’s reputation. He failed to win any out of 48 races he has entered from 2010 to 2012 and he scored only one podium finish, in 2012 European Grand Prix in Valencia, when he became the oldest driver to achieve a podium finish since 1970 when Jack Brabham was 2nd in the British Grand Prix.
Finally, in October of 2012, the German legend announced that he will retire definitely at the end of the season, saying that he lost passion and motivation. His final race was the Brazilian Grand Prix in which he finished 7th.
During his career, Schumacher scored 91 wins in the Formula 1 World Championship, 155 podiums, 68 pole positions, and 77 fastest laps. He was the second driver in the history of Formula 1 who appeared in more than 300 races.
Awards and honors
For his achievements, Schumacher was honored many times during his career. He won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award twice and was the only person from motorsport who has won the award more than once.He has also received the Legion of Honor, the highest French order. He is also a special ambassador of UNESCO and was involved in numerous charity programs and foundations.
It is estimated that during his career Schumacher earned an awfully big sum of money. In 2005, Eurobusiness magazine identified Schumacher as the World's first billionaire athlete.
Horrible skiing accident in December 2013
Schumacher managed to avoid serious accidents and injuries during his long racing career but fate was merciless. When he was on skiing with his son Mick, in France in December of 2013, Schumacher fell on his head when he was crossing off-piste area. Helmet probably saved his life but the injuries were so horrible that he was put into a medically induced coma because of traumatic brain injury.
After six months, he left the hospital in Grenoble while in September of 2014 he was sent home for further rehabilitation. His health condition is still a mystery but is definitely not good at all.
You can love him or hate him, but you must respect him
Michael Schumacher will be remembered as one of the world’s fastest and most consistent racing drivers. His knowledge of mechanics and dynamics of the race cars gave him the big advantage over his colleagues. However, his successful career was also a controversial one, since there have been several situations when he didn’t act as a proper sportsman and deliberately caused a track accident in order to stop his rivals.