Michael Schumacher (born January 3, 1969, Hürth-Hermühlheim (close to Cologne, Germany).) is a German Formula One (F1) driver. Statistically, he is the most successful F1 driver ever, with the most career victories, and a record seven World Drivers' Championships.
Schumacher began racing karts at the age of four and a half in a home-made kart built by his father, Rolf Schumacher, who managed the local karting track located in Kerpen, Schumacher's home town. He obtained his first license, and began racing competitively, by the age of twelve. Between 1984 and 1987, Michael won numerous German and European kart championships, including the Formula Konig Series. In 1988, Schumacher raced in the Formula Ford series, and over the next two years competed in the German Formula 3 series, winning the title in 1990. In 1991, he continued his ascent up the racing ladder, joining the Mercedes junior racing programme in the World Endurance Championship, winning races in Mexico City and at Autopolis, at the wheel of a Sauber-Mercedes C291. He also briefly competed in the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship and the German Touring Car Championship in the early 1990s.
Schumacher made his Formula One debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix as a replacement driver for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot (incarcerated for spraying CS gas at a London taxicab-driver's face). Eddie Jordan signed Michael to his Jordan team at the Belgian Grand Prix, after Michael assured Jordan that he had vast experience in the challenging Spa circuit, with its brutal Eau Rouge corner, despite the fact that he had only ran in that track once, and that in a bicycle. Michael astonished everyone by qualifying seventh, in his first competition in an F1 vehicle. He was quickly signed by Benetton-Ford for the next race, and immediately showed great potential.
Schumacher won his first World Championship in 1994 while driving for Benetton in an extremely exciting and closely-contested season, marred by the death of Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. He won the first four races of the year, and six of the first seven events. However, in the latter portion of the year, competitor Damon Hill began to edge closer to Schumacher in the standings, aided by two technical disqualifications of Schumacher's Benetton (in Britain and Belgium). Leading by a single point going into the final race in Australia, Schumacher clinched the title after colliding with Hill, knocking both drivers out of the running.
Fo 1995, Schumacher stayed with Benetton, who had switched to Renault engines. He successfully defended his crown that season, accumulating 30 more points than the second placed driver, who was once again Hill. With teammate Johnny Herbert, he also helped Benetton win its first (and only) Constructors' Championship. In 1994 and 1995, his two first championship seasons, Schumacher won 17 races, achieved 21 podiums, and notched ten pole positions. During this span of 31 grands prix, only once did he qualify worse than fourth position, at the 1995 Belgium Grand Prix, where he started 16th on the grid but still managed to win the race.
In 1996, Michael signed a contract with Ferrari, which at the time was a highly risky move, given Ferrari's championship drought (the Italian-based giants had not won a title since 1979). In his first year at the Scuderia, he wrung the neck out of a very poor car and managed to finish 3rd in the driver's championship, behind only the two Williams' drivers. In 1997 he again took the title fight down to the last race, narrowly leading the points for the drivers' title. Schumacher collided with his main competitor in the race, Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve, only to knock himself out. while Villeneuve stayed on and claimed third place, and with it the World Championship. In 1998, there were tyre rule changes in Formula 1 and Bridgestone had the upper hand on Goodyear. Also, McLaren emerged as the class of the field. It was left for Schumacher to challenge the McLaren domination and the season went down to the last race. Schumacher won six races that year, the most memorable one being in Hungary where he pitted three times and had to do a whole stint lapping the Hungaroring circuit at qualifying speed, more than a second faster than anyone else to make up ground on the McLarens. After several rebuilding years, Schumacher helped Ferrari win the Constructors title in 1999. However, his hopes for another Drivers' Championship were dashed at that year's British Grand Prix, where he broke his leg after his Ferrari's brakes failed causing him to crash heavily. He was unable to compete for the next six races. But Michael would re-claim personal glory once again in 2000, winning his third Drivers' title (and Ferrari's first since Jody Scheckter in 1979) after a thrilling year long battle with Mika Häkkinen.
During the next year (2001), while en route to his fourth drivers title, he broke Alain Prost's record for most grand prix wins. In a dominant 2002, he easily took his fifth Drivers' title (equalling the record set by Juan Manuel Fangio) due to his driving talent and the sheer dominance of his Ferrari machinery, which won 15 of the 17 races that season. In 2003, he broke Fangio's record by winning the Drivers' title for the sixth time in a closely-contested season, narrowly defeating Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen.
Schumacher started off the 2004 championship with typical domination, winning a record twelve of the first thirteen races of the season. He clinched the seventh drivers title of his unequalled F1 career where it all began for him — at the Belgian Grand Prix. He would finish the season with a record 148 points.
The 2005 season was a struggle for Schumacher, as he has only one victory (United States Grand Prix), which he almost certainly would not have won without the withdrawal of 14 cars due to Michelin's tyre problems. After a sixth place finish at the British Grand Prix, a downbeat Schumacher said that he and his Ferrari team are going backwards, not forwards. After the German Grand Prix Schumacher admitted, I don't think I can count myself in this battle [for the championship] anymore. At Hungary Michael claimed an impressive pole position, made slightly less impressive by his early pitting (proof of a car light on fuel) but still finished second after Juan Pablo Montoya retired with gearbox problems. At the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix Schumacher went off the track during every practice and during qualifying, starting the race in last place and remarkably making it up to 11th place, only to knock himself out of contention while closing the door on the faster Williams driven by Mark Webber, who was overtaking Schumacher not for position, but trying to unlap himself. Michael would return several laps later in order to improve his qualifying chances for the following race. Under severe weather conditions at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa and after the safety car had been deployed, when Schumacher had a real chance of fighting for a strong finish in what had been a dismal year for Ferrari, he was recklessly hit from behind by Takuma Sato at the La Source hairpin. After the incident, a furious Michael walked up to Sato's car and slapped the Japanese driver on his helmet. Sato would suffer a ten place grid penalty for the following race, although this was probably not enough, and Michael received no extra points.
Following the 2005 Italian Grand Prix it became mathematically impossible for Schumacher to retain his title, though in reality the possibility was remote for most of the season. On September 25th, 2005, and after ruling Formula One as its champion for 1,813 consecutive days, Michael finally relinquished his crown to Fernando Alonso of Spain.
Since the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher has been widely regarded as the fastest driver in F1 and the most dominant driver of his era. However, his career has at times been controversial, with some commentators questioning his poor sportsmanship and driving tactics and the apparent standing team orders which would require his team mates to play a subservient role.
For those who question his driving style the two most often quoted incidents are the previously mentioned 1994 Australian Grand Prix crash with Damon Hill and the 1997 European Grand Prix crash with Jacques Villeneuve. It is widely regarded that he deliberately crashed with Villeneuve during the 1997 European Grand Prix.
In the 1994 Australian Grand Prix Schumacher was leading Damon Hill, but just barely; if Hill had won the race, he would have won that year's World Championship. During the race Schumacher made an error and ran wide, which led to an overtaking maneuver by Hill into the subsequent corner. Schumacher turned into the corner and collided with Hill, in the process crashing into the barriers and breaking Hill's front left suspension. Both cars were removed from the race, which was eventually won by Nigel Mansell, who was too far behind in the points to challenge Schumacher's title lead. In this case it was judged a racing incident and Schumacher took his first title.
During the 1997 European Grand Prix Schumacher was leading the race and was followed by Villeneuve. In a similar situation to 1994 a win for either driver would guarantee him the World Championship. Villeneuve attempted to overtake Schumacher, who then collided with the Canadian in what the FIA finally judged to be dangerous driving. Although Schumacher's car was knocked out of the race, Villeneuve went on to finish third, behind Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard, who were too far behind in the points to challenge Villeneuve for the Championship. Schumacher was stripped of his second place in the World Championship final standings (with Heinz-Harald Frentzen moving from third to second), while retaining his results and points for the season, in a bizarre and unprecedented decision that was widely criticized as representing no real punishment at all.
During Schumacher's reign of consecutive World Championships many fans were put off by his dominance of F1 and there was particular attention paid to how Schumacher and his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello were swapping finishes to engineer specific changes in the World Championship.
A good example of this was the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix where Ferrari ordered Barrichello, who was leading the race, to move over for Schumacher to take the win. This led to a poor reception on the podium where an embarrassed Schumacher ushered Barrichello onto the top step. The result was a ban on team orders and a $1 million fine for Ferrari. Nevertheless, team orders are at times practiced by many teams and can be executed discreetly, for example, a fuel hose which will not disconnect, an apparent driver error, a radio authorization for a driver to overtake his teammate, clearly heard by the teammate in question, as used by Renault during the 2005 season in Canada (rendered moot by Giancarlo Fisichella's hydraulic pressure problems) and Turkey, etc.
Team orders were officially banned by the FIA , but have been openly used by Renault and Mclaren this season. The criticism of Ferrari has come down to the way they used team orders rather than the fact that they did. It is now accepted that Austria 2002 was a major error of judgement rather than an attempt to cheat on Ferrari's part.
It has also been argued that unlike some of the great drivers of the past, Schumacher has not had much of a challenge from within the team. During much of his time at Benneton he was consistently dominant over his team mates, and since moving to Ferrari, he has insisted that he is given a clear Number 1 status within a team built around himself, with his team-mate being forced to play an esssentially subservient role.
In more recent years, however, his success with Ferrari, moderation of his on-track tactics, and a more relaxed public persona have rehabilitated Schumacher's image for most fans, although the accidents with Hill and Villeneuve have not been forgotten by many Formula one fans, who usually are quick to point out poor sportsmanship.
Schumacher married Corinna (née Betsch) in August 1995. They have two children together, daughter Gina-Maria (b. 1997) and son Mick (b. 1999), and they currently reside in Vufflens-le-Château, Switzerland, near Lake Geneva. Michael is fiercely protective of his private life and takes every effort to keep his family out of the spotlight. Michael's younger brother Ralf, six years his junior, is also an F1 driver. Michael's off-track interests include playing football (soccer) (actively in FC Aubonne), playing tennis, swimming, and skiing. His nicknames are the "Red Baron", the "Rain Master", "Schuey" and "Schumi".
In 2005, Schumacher donated more than 10m USD for charity to the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake in a charity show on the German television network ZDF. It was later announced that Schumacher's bodyguard, Burkhard Cramer, had died while on holiday in Phuket, Thailand and that his two sons were still missing.
As of 2004, he earns an estimated US$80 million annually, including all of his endorsement deals. One notable deal is with the German investment counselling company Deutsche Vermögensberatung, which will pay him US$8 million over three years for wearing a four-inch advert on his post-race hat.
Formula One Records
- Most championship titles: 7
- Most consecutive titles: 5
- Most fastest laps: 69
- Most races led: 127
- Most laps led: 4664
- Most wins: 84
- Most Triples (pole position, win, and fastest lap): 20
- Most wins in a season: 13
- Most wins with the same team: 65 (Ferrari)
- Most wins from pole position: 37
- Most podiums: 142
- Most podiums in a season: 17
- Most podiums with the same team: 76 (Ferrari)
- Most poles with the same team: 54 (Ferrari)
- Most second places: 39
- Most championship points: 1,248
- Most points in a season: 148
- Most time between first and last wins (12 years, 10 month, 21 days)
Formula One Career Results
- 1991 — Jordan-Ford; Benetton-Ford — 0 wins, 4 points, finished 13th
- 1992 — Benetton-Ford — 1 win, 53 points, finished 3rd
- 1993 — Benetton-Ford — 1 win, 42 points, finished 4th
- 1994 — Benetton-Ford — 8 wins, 92 points, World Champion
- 1995 — Benetton-Renault — 9 wins, 102 points, World Champion
- 1996 — Ferrari — 3 wins, 59 points, finished 3rd
- 1997 — Ferrari — 5 wins, 78 points, disqualified (having finished 2nd)
- 1998 — Ferrari — 6 wins, 86 points, finished 2nd
- 1999 — Ferrari — 2 wins, 44 points, finished 5th *
- 2000 — Ferrari — 9 wins, 108 points, World Champion
- 2001 — Ferrari — 9 wins, 123 points, World Champion
- 2002 — Ferrari — 11 wins, 144 points, World Champion
- 2003 — Ferrari — 6 wins, 93 points, World Champion
- 2004 — Ferrari — 13 wins, 148 points, World Champion
- 2005 — Ferrari — 1 win, 62 points, 3rd
- * Missed six races after brake failure caused him to crash, breaking his leg during the British Grand Prix.
- Michael Schumacher's Official Website
- F1-Live biography
- Unofficial Fan Site
- Hall of Fame: Michael Schumacher
- Michael Schumacher Collectables
- Michael Schumacher Profile and Statistics
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