Michael Schumacher: Seven Time World Champion
Schumacher records include most championships, victories, fastest laps, pole positions, points, races won in a single season
by Jim Davis | 25 November 2012
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Michael Schumacher was born January 3,1969 and is known to many of us as a German Formula One driver, racing for the Mercedes team. But, did you know Schumacher is a seven-time World Champion and is considered to be one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.
Schumacher has set several F1 records throughout his career: most championships, race victories, fastest laps, pole positions, points scored and most races won in a single season (13 in 2004). In 2002 he became the only driver in Formula One history to finish in the top three in every race of a season and then also broke the record for most consecutive podium finishes. According to the official Formula One website he is “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen”. In a survey of 217 F1 drivers, Schumacher was voted the second greatest driver of the world championship era (which began in 1950), behind the late Ayrton Senna.
After beginning his race career with karting, Schumacher won German drivers’ championships in Formula König and Formula Three before joining Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship. After one Mercedes-funded race for the Jordan Formula One team Schumacher signed as a driver for the Benetton F1 team in 1991. After winning consecutive championships with Benetton in 1994/1995, Schumacher then moved to Ferrari in 1996 and won another five consecutive drivers’ titles with them from 2000 through 2004. Schumacher retired from Formula One driving in 2006, but stayed on with Ferrari as an advisor. Schumacher agreed to return for Ferrari part-way through 2009, as a substitute for the injured Felipe Massa, but was prevented by a neck injury. He later signed a three-year contract to drive for the new Mercedes GP team starting in 2010.
Schumacher’s career has not been without controversy though. He was twice involved in collisions in the final race of a season that would determine the outcome of the world championship. First with Damon Hill in 1994 in Adelaide, and again with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 in Jerez.
Away from the track, Schumacher is an ambassador for UNESCO and a spokesman for driver safety. He has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts throughout his life and donated tens of millions of dollars to charity. Michael and his younger brother Ralf Schumacher are the only brothers to win races in Formula One, and they were the first brothers to finish 1st and 2nd in the same race, in Montreal in 2001, and there again (in switched order) in 2003.
Schumacher’s Early Years
Schumacher was born in Hürth, North Rhine-Westphalia, to Rolf Schumacher, a bricklayer, and his wife Elisabeth. When Schumacher was four, his father modified his pedal kart by adding a small motorcycle engine. When Schumacher crashed it into a lamp post in Kerpen, his parents took him to the karting track at Kerpen-Horrem, where he became the youngest member of the karting club. His father soon built him a kart from discarded parts and at the age of six Schumacher won his first club championship. To support his son’s racing, Rolf Schumacher took on a second job renting and repairing karts, while his wife worked at the track’s canteen. Nevertheless, when Schumacher needed a new engine costing 800 DM, his parents were unable to afford it; Michael was able to continue racing with support from local businessmen.
Regulations in Germany require a driver to be at least 14 years old to obtain a kart license. To get around this, Schumacher obtained a license in Luxembourg at the age of 12.
In 1983, he obtained his German license, a year after he won the German Junior Kart Championship. From 1984 on, Schumacher won many German and European kart championships. He joined Eurokart dealer Adolf Neubert in 1985 and by 1987 he was the German and European kart champion, then he quit school and began working as a mechanic. In 1988 he made his first step into single-seat car racing by participating in the German Formula Ford and Formula König series, winning the latter.
In 1989, Schumacher signed with Willi Weber’s WTS Formula Three team. Funded by Weber, he competed in the German Formula 3 series, winning the title in 1990. He won also the Macau Grand Prix. At the end of 1990, along with his Formula 3 rivals Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, he joined the Mercedes junior racing programme in the World Sports-Prototype Championship. This was unusual for a young driver: most of Schumacher’s contemporaries would compete in Formula 3000 on the way to Formula One. However, Weber advised Schumacher that being exposed to professional press conferences and driving powerful cars in long distance races would help his career.
In the 1990 World Sportscar Championship season, Schumacher won the season finale at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in a Sauber–Mercedes C11, and finished fifth in the drivers’ championship despite only driving in 3 of the 9 races. He continued with the team in the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season, winning again at the final race of the season at Autopolis in Japan with a Sauber–Mercedes-Benz C291, leading to a ninth place finish in the drivers championship. He also competed at Le Mans during that season, finishing 5th in a car shared with Karl Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointner. In 1991, he competed in one race in the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship, finishing second.
Formula One Career
Schumacher was noted throughout his career for his ability to produce fast laps at crucial moments in a race, to push his car to the very limit for sustained periods. Motor sport author Christopher Hilton observed in 2003 that “A measure of a driver’s capabilities is his performance in wet races, because the most delicate car control and sensitivity are needed”, and noted that like other great drivers, Schumacher’s record in wet conditions shows very few mistakes: up to the end of the 2003 season, Schumacher won 17 of the 30 races in wet conditions he contested. Some of Schumacher’s best performances occurred in such conditions, earning him the nicknames “Regenkönig” (rain king) or “Regenmeister” (rain master) even in the non-German-language media. He is known as “the Red Baron”, because of his red Ferrari and in reference to the German Manfred von Richthofen, the famous flying ace of World War I. Schumacher’s nicknames include “Schumi”, “Schuey” and “Schu”. Schumacher is often credited with popularising Formula One in Germany, where it was formerly considered a fringe sport. When Schumacher retired in 2006, three of the top ten drivers were German, more than any other nationality and more than have ever been present in Formula One history. Younger German drivers, such as Sebastian Vettel, felt Schumacher was key in their becoming Formula One drivers. In the latter part of his Formula One career, and as one of the senior drivers, Schumacher was the president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. In a 2006 FIA survey, Michael Schumacher was voted the most popular driver of the season among Formula One fans.
Schumacher made his Formula One debut with the Jordan-Ford team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, driving car number 32 as a replacement for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot. Schumacher, still a contracted Mercedes driver, was signed by Eddie Jordan after Mercedes paid Jordan $150,000 for his debut. The week before the race, Schumacher impressed Jordan designer Gary Anderson and team manager Trevor Foster during a test drive at Silverstone. His manager Willi Weber assured Jordan that Schumacher knew the challenging Spa track well, although in fact he had only seen it as a spectator. During the race weekend, team-mate Andrea de Cesaris was meant to show Schumacher the circuit but was held up with contract negotiations. Schumacher then learned the track on his own, by cycling around the track on a fold-up bike he had brought with him. He impressed the paddock by qualifying seventh in this race. This matched the team’s season-best grid position, and out-qualified 11-year veteran de Cesaris. Motorsport journalist Joe Saward reported that after qualifying “clumps of German journalists were talking about ‘the best talent since Stefan Bellof'”.Schumacher retired on the first lap of the race with clutch problems.
After his debut, and despite Jordan’s signed agreement in principle with Schumacher’s Mercedes management for the remainder of the season, Schumacher was signed by Benetton-Ford for the following race. Jordan applied for an injunction in the UK courts to prevent Schumacher driving for Benetton, but lost the case as they had not yet signed a contract. Schumacher finished the 1991 season with four points out of six races. His best finish was fifth in his second race, the Italian Grand Prix, in which he finished ahead of his team-mate and three-time World Champion Nelson Piquet.
At the start of the 1992 season the Sauber team, planning their Formula One debut with Mercedes backing for the following year, invoked a clause in Schumacher’s contract which stated that if Mercedes entered Formula One, Schumacher would drive for them. It was eventually agreed that Schumacher would stay with Benetton, Peter Sauber said that “[Schumacher] didn’t want to drive for us. Why would I have forced him?”. The year was dominated by the Williams of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, featuring powerful Renault engines, semi-automatic gearboxes and active suspension to control the car’s ride height. In the “conventional” Benetton B192 Schumacher took his place on the podium for the first time, finishing third in the Mexican Grand Prix. He went on to take his first victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, in a wet race at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which by 2003 he would call “far and away my favourite track”.He finished third in the Drivers’ Championship in 1992 with 53 points, three points behind runner-up Patrese.
The Williams of Damon Hill and Alain Prost also dominated the 1993 season. Benetton introduced their own active suspension and traction control early in the season, last of the frontrunning teams to do so. Schumacher won one race, the Portuguese Grand Prix where he beat Prost, and had nine podium finishes, but retired in seven of the other 15 races. He finished the season in fourth, with 52 points.
1994–1995: World Championship years
The 1994 season was Schumacher’s first Drivers’ Championship. The season, however, was marred by the deaths of Ayrton Senna (witnessed by Schumacher, who was directly behind in 2nd position) and Roland Ratzenberger during the San Marino Grand Prix, and by allegations that several teams, but most particularly Schumacher’s Benetton team, broke the sport’s technical regulations.
Schumacher won six of the first seven races and was leading the Spanish Grand Prix, before a gearbox failure left him stuck in fifth gear. Schumacher finished the race in second place. Following the San Marino Grand Prix, the Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren teams were investigated on suspicion of breaking the FIA-imposed ban on electronic aids. Benetton and McLaren initially refused to hand over their source code for investigation. When they did so, the FIA discovered hidden functionality in both teams’ software, but no evidence that it had been used in a race. Both teams were fined $100,000 for their initial refusal to cooperate. However, the McLaren software, which was a gearbox program that allowed automatic shifts, was deemed legal. By contrast, the Benetton software was deemed to be a form of “launch control” that would have allowed Schumacher to make perfect starts, which was explicitly outlawed by the regulations. However, there was no evidence to suggest that this software was actually used.
At the British Grand Prix, Schumacher was penalised for overtaking on the formation lap. He then ignored the penalty and the subsequent black flag, which indicates that the driver must immediately return to the pits, for which he was disqualified and later given a two-race ban. Benetton blamed the incident on a communication error between the stewards and the team. Schumacher was also disqualified after winning the Belgian Grand Prix after his car was found to have illegal wear on its skidblock, a measure used after the accidents at Imola to limit downforce and hence cornering speed. Benetton protested that the skidblock had been damaged when Schumacher spun over a kerb, but the FIA rejected their appeal because of the pattern of wear and damage visible on the block. These incidents helped Damon Hill close the points gap, and Schumacher led by a single point going into the final race in Australia. On lap 36 Schumacher hit the guardrail on the outside of the track while leading. Hill attempted to pass but as Schumacher’s car returned to the track there was a collision on the corner causing them both to retire. As a result Schumacher won a very controversial championship, the first German to do so (Jochen Rindt raced under the Austrian flag).
In 1995 Schumacher successfully defended his title with Benetton. He now had the same Renault engine as Williams. He accumulated 33 more points than second-placed Damon Hill. With team-mate Johnny Herbert, he took Benetton to its first Constructors’ Championship and became the youngest two-time world champion in Formula One history.
The season was marred by several collisions with Hill, in particular an overtaking manoeuvre by Hill took them both out of the British Grand Prix on lap 45 and again on lap 23 of the Italian Grand Prix. Schumacher won nine of the 17 races, and finished on the podium 11 times. Only once did he qualify worse than fourth; at the Belgian Grand Prix, he qualified 16th, but went on to win the race.
In 1996, Schumacher joined Ferrari for a salary of $60 million over 2 years, a team which had last won the Drivers’ Championship with Jody Scheckter in 1979 and which had not won the Constructors’ Cup since 1983 with drivers René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay at the wheel. He left Benetton a year before his contract with them expired; he later cited the team’s damaging actions in 1994 as his reason for opting out of his deal. A year later, ex-Benetton employees Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn, who had been Technical Director at Benetton since 1991, and who was one of the key members behind Schumacher’s title successes with the team in 1994 and 1995, decided to join Schumacher at Ferrari. This increased Schumacher’s motivation to build a more experienced and potentially championship-winning team around him.
Ferrari had previously come close to the championship in 1982 and 1990. The team had suffered a disastrous downturn in the early 1990s, partially as their famous V12 engine was no longer competitive against the smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient V10s of their competitors. Various drivers, notably Alain Prost, had given the vehicles labels such as “truck”, “pig”, and “accident waiting to happen”. The poor performance of the Ferrari pit crews was considered a running joke. At the end of 1995, though the team had improved into a solid competitor, it was still considered inferior to front-running teams such as Benetton and Williams. Schumacher declared the Ferrari 412T good enough to win the Championship.
Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, and Jean Todt (hired in 1993), have been credited as turning this once struggling team into the most successful team in Formula One history. Three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart believes the transformation of the Ferrari team was Schumacher’s greatest feat. Eddie Irvine also joined the team, moving from Jordan.
Schumacher finished third in the Drivers’ Championship in 1996, and helped Ferrari to second place in the constructors’ championship ahead of his old team Benetton. He won three races, more than the team’s total tally for the period from 1991 to 1995. During the initial part of the 1996 season, the car had had reliability trouble and Schumacher did not finish 6 of the 16 races. He took his first win for Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix, where he lapped the entire field up to third place in the wet. In the French Grand Prix Schumacher qualified in pole position, but suffered engine failure on the race’s formation lap. However at Spa-Francorchamps, Schumacher used well-timed pit-stops to fend off the Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve. Following that, at Monza, Schumacher won in front of the tifosi. Schumacher’s ability, combined with the improving reliability of Ferrari, enabled him to end the season, putting up a challenge to eventual race and championship winner Damon Hill at Suzuka.
Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve vied for the title in 1997. Villeneuve, driving the superior Williams FW19, led the championship in the early part of the season. However, by mid-season, Schumacher had taken the Championship lead, winning five races, and entered the season’s final Grand Prix with a one-point advantage. Towards the end of the race, held at Jerez, Schumacher’s Ferrari developed a coolant leak and loss of performance indicating he may not finish the race. As Villeneuve approached to pass his rival, Schumacher attempted to provoke an accident but got the short end of the stick, retiring from the race. Villeneuve went on and scored four points to take the championship. Schumacher was punished for unsportsmanlike conduct for the collision and was disqualified from the Drivers’ Championship.
In 1998, Finnish driver Mika Häkkinen became Schumacher’s main title competition. Häkkinen won the first two races of the season, gaining a 16 point advantage over Schumacher. Schumacher then won in Argentina and, with the Ferrari improving significantly in the second half of the season, Schumacher took six victories and had five other podium finishes. Ferrari took a 1–2 finish at the French Grand Prix, the first Ferrari 1–2 finish since 1990, and the Italian Grand Prix, which tied Schumacher with Häkkinen for the lead of the Drivers’ Championship with 80 points, but Häkkinen won the Championship by winning the final two races. There were two controversies; at the British Grand Prix Schumacher was leading on the last lap when he turned into the pit lane, crossed the start finish line and stopped for a ten second stop go penalty. There was some doubt whether this counted as serving the penalty, but, because he had crossed the finish line when he came into the pit lane, the win was valid. At Spa, Schumacher was leading the race by 40 seconds in heavy spray, but collided with David Coulthard’s McLaren when the Scot, a lap down, slowed in very poor visibility to let Schumacher past. After both cars returned to the pits, Schumacher leaped out of his car and headed to McLaren’s garage in an infuriated manner and accused Coulthard of trying to kill him.
Rumours circulated that Coulthard may be replaced by Schumacher for the 1999 season and beyond and, in a previous edition of the F1 Racing magazine, Ron Dennis revealed that he had approached Schumacher to sign a deal with McLaren. However, peripheral financial issues that tied Schumacher with Ferrari, such as sponsorship agreements and payment, could not be rectified in a move to the rival team and so, no deal came to fruition.
Schumacher’s efforts helped Ferrari win the Constructors title in 1999. He lost his chance to win the Drivers’ Championship at the British Grand Prix at the high-speed Stowe Corner, his car’s rear brake failed, sending him off the track and resulting in a broken leg. During his 98 day absence, he was replaced by Finnish driver Mika Salo. After missing six races, he made his return at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, qualifying in the pole position by almost a second. He then assumed the role of second driver, assisting team mate Eddie Irvine’s bid to win the Drivers’ Championship for Ferrari. In the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix, Häkkinen won his second consecutive title. Schumacher would later say that Häkkinen was the opponent he respected the most.
2000–2004: World Championship years
Schumacher driving the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F2002 at the 2002 French Grand Prix, the race at which he clinched the 2002 Drivers’ Championship, setting the record for the fewest races in locking up the title
During this period Schumacher won more races and championships than any other driver in the history of the sport. Schumacher won his third World Championship in 2000 after a year-long battle with Häkkinen. Schumacher won the first three races of the season and five of the first eight. Mid-way through the year, Schumacher’s chances suffered with three consecutive non-finishes, allowing Häkkinen to close the gap in the standings. Häkkinen then took another two victories, before Schumacher won at the Italian Grand Prix. At the post race press conference, after equalling the number of wins (41) won by his idol, Ayrton Senna, Schumacher broke into tears. The championship fight would come down to the penultimate race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix. Starting from pole position, Schumacher lost the lead to Häkkinen at the start. After his second pit-stop, however, Schumacher came out ahead of Häkkinen and went on to win the race and the championship.
In 2001, Schumacher took his fourth drivers’ title. Four other drivers won races, but none sustained a season-long challenge for the championship. Schumacher scored a record-tying nine wins and clinched the world championship with four races yet to run. He finished the championship with 123 points, 58 ahead of runner-up Coulthard. Season highlights included the Canadian Grand Prix, where Schumacher finished 2nd to his brother Ralf, thus scoring the first ever 1–2 finish by brothers in Formula One; and the Belgian Grand Prix in which Schumacher scored his 52nd career win, breaking Alain Prost’s record for most career wins.
In 2002, Schumacher used the Ferrari F2002 to retain his Drivers’ Championship. There was again some controversy, however, at the Austrian Grand Prix, where his teammate, Rubens Barrichello was leading but in the final metres of the race, under team orders, slowed down to allow Schumacher to win the race. The crowd broke into outraged boos at the result and Schumacher tried to make amends by allowing Barrichello to stand on the top step of the podium. At the United States Grand Prix later that year, Schumacher dominated the race and was set for a close finish with Barrichello. At the end he slowed down to create a formation finish with Barrichello, but slowed too much allowing Barrichello to take the victory. In winning the Drivers’ Championship he equalled the record set by Juan Manuel Fangio of five world championships. Ferrari won 15 out of 17 races, and Schumacher won the title with six races remaining in the season, which is still the earliest point in the season for a driver to be crowned World Champion. Schumacher broke his own record, shared with Nigel Mansell, of nine race wins in a season, by winning eleven times and finishing every race on the podium. He finished with 144 points, a record-breaking 67 points ahead of the runner-up, his teammate Rubens Barrichello. This pair finished 9 of the 17 races in the first two places.
Schumacher broke Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of five World Drivers’ Championships by winning the drivers’ title for the sixth time in 2003, a closely contested season. The biggest competition came once again from the McLaren Mercedes and Williams BMW teams. In the first race, Schumacher ran off track, and in the following two, was involved in collisions. He fell 16 points behind Kimi Räikkönen. Schumacher won the San Marino Grand Prix and the next two races, and closed within two points of Räikkönen. Aside from Schumacher’s victory in Canada, and Barrichello’s victory in Britain, the mid-season was dominated by Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, who each claimed two victories. After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher led Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen by only one and two points, respectively. Ahead of the next race, the FIA announced changes to the way tyre widths were to be measured: this forced Michelin, supplier to Williams and McLaren among others, to rapidly redesign their tyres before the Italian Grand Prix. Schumacher, running on Bridgestone tyres, won the next two races. After Montoya was penalised in the United States Grand Prix, only Schumacher and Räikkönen remained in contention for the title. At the final round, the Japanese Grand Prix, Schumacher needed only one point whilst Räikkönen needed to win. By finishing the race in eighth place, Schumacher took one point and assured his sixth World Drivers’ title, ending the season two points ahead of Räikkönen.
In 2004, Schumacher won a record twelve of the first thirteen races of the season, only failing to finish in Monaco after an accident with Juan Pablo Montoya during a safety car period when he briefly locked his car’s brakes. He clinched a record seventh drivers’ title at the Belgian Grand Prix. He finished that season with a record 148 points, 34 points ahead of the runner-up, teammate Rubens Barrichello, and set a new record of 13 race wins out of a possible 18, surpassing his previous best of 11 wins from the 2002 season.
Rule changes for the 2005 season required tyres to last an entire race, tipping the overall advantage to teams using Michelins over teams such as Ferrari that relied on Bridgestone tyres. The rule changes were partly in an effort to dent Ferrari’s dominance and make the series more interesting. The most notable moment of the early season for Schumacher was his battle with Fernando Alonso in San Marino, where he started 13th and finished only 0.2 seconds behind the Spanish driver. Less than half-way through the season, Schumacher said “I don’t think I can count myself in this battle any more. It was like trying to fight with a blunted weapon…. If your weapons are weak you don’t have a chance.” Schumacher’s sole win in 2005 came at the United States Grand Prix. Prior to that race, the Michelin tyres were found to have significant safety issues. When no compromise between the teams and the FIA could be reached, all but the six drivers using Bridgestone tyres dropped out of the race after the formation lap. Schumacher retired in six of the 19 races. He finished the season in third with 62 points, fewer than half the points of world champion Alonso.
2006 became the last season of Schumacher’s Ferrari career. After three races, Schumacher had just 11 points and was already 17 points behind Alonso. He won the following two races. His pole position at San Marino was his 66th, breaking Ayrton Senna’s 12 year old record.
Schumacher was stripped of pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix and started the race at the back of the grid. This was due to him stopping his car and blocking part of the circuit while Alonso was on his qualifying lap; he still managed to work his way up to 5th place on the notoriously cramped Monaco circuit. By the Canadian Grand Prix, the ninth race of the season, Schumacher was 25 points behind Alonso, but he then won the following three races to reduce his disadvantage to 11. His win at Hockenheim was the last home win for a German as of now. After his victories in Italy (in which Alonso had an engine failure) and China, in which Alonso had tyre problems, Schumacher led in the championship standings for the first time during the season. Although he and Alonso had the same point total, Schumacher was in front because he had won more races.
The Japanese Grand Prix was led by Schumacher with only 16 laps to go, when, for the first time since the 2000 French Grand Prix, Schumacher’s car suffered an engine failure. Alonso won the race, giving himself a ten point championship lead. With only one race left in the season, Schumacher could only win the championship if he won the season finale and Alonso scored no points.
Before the Brazilian Grand Prix, Schumacher conceded the title to Alonso. In pre-race ceremonies, football legend Pelé presented a trophy to Schumacher for his years of dedication to Formula One. During the race’s qualifying session, Schumacher had the best time of all drivers through the first two sessions; but a fuel pressure problem prevented him from completing a single lap during the third session, forcing him to start the race in tenth position. Early in the race Schumacher moved up to sixth place. However, in overtaking Alonso’s teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, Schumacher experienced a tyre puncture caused by the front wing of Fisichella’s car. Schumacher pitted and consequently fell to 19th place, 70 seconds behind teammate and race leader Felipe Massa. Schumacher recovered and overtook both Fisichella and Räikkönen to secure fourth place. His performance was classified in the press as “heroic”, an “utterly breath-taking drive”, and a “performance that … sums up his career”.
2007–2009: First Retirement
While Schumacher was on the podium after winning the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari issued a press release stating that he would retire from racing at the end of the 2006 season. Schumacher confirmed his retirement. The press release stated that Schumacher would continue working for Ferrari. It was revealed on 29 October 2006 that Ferrari wanted Schumacher to act as assistant to the newly appointed CEO Jean Todt. This would involve selecting the team’s future drivers. After Schumacher’s announcement, leading Formula One figures such as Niki Lauda and David Coulthard hailed Schumacher as the greatest all-round racing driver in the history of Formula One. The tifosi and the Italian press, who did not always take to Schumacher’s relatively cold public persona, displayed an affectionate response after he announced his retirement.
2007: Advisor at Ferrari
He attended several Grands Prix during the season. Schumacher drove the Ferrari F2007 for the first time on 24 October at Ferrari’s home track in Fiorano, Italy. He ran no more than five laps and no lap times were recorded. A Ferrari spokesman said the short drive was done for the Fiat board of directors who were holding their meeting in Maranello.
During the 2007 season Schumacher acted as Ferrari’s advisor and Jean Todt’s ‘super assistant’. On 13 November 2007 Schumacher, who had not driven a Formula One car since he had retired a year earlier, undertook a formal test session for the first time aboard the F2007. He returned in December 2007 to continue helping Ferrari with their development program at Jerez circuit. He focused on testing electronics and tyres for the 2008 Formula One season.
2008: Car development
In 2007, former Ferrari top manager Ross Brawn said that Schumacher was very likely and also happy to continue testing in 2008. Michael Schumacher later explained his role further saying that he would “deal with the development of the car inside Gestione Sportiva” and as part of that “I’d like to drive, but not too often.”.
During 2008 Schumacher also competed in motorcycle racing in the IDM Superbike-series, but stated that he had no intention of a second competitive career in this sport. He was quoted as saying that riding a Ducati was the most exhilarating thing he had done in his life, the second most being sky diving.
2009: Planned substitution for injured Massa
In his capacity as racing advisor to Ferrari, Schumacher was present in Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix when Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was seriously injured after being struck by a suspension spring during qualifying. As it became clear that Massa would be unable to compete in the next race at Valencia Schumacher was chosen as a replacement for the Brazilian driver and on 29 July 2009, Ferrari announced that they planned to draft in Schumacher for the European Grand Prix and subsequent Grands Prix until Massa was able to race again. Schumacher tested in a modified F2007 to prepare himself as he had been unable to test the 2009 car due to testing restrictions. Ferrari appealed for special permission for Schumacher to test in a 2009 spec car but Williams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso were against this test. Schumacher was forced to call off his return due to the severity of the neck injury he had received in a motorcycle accident earlier in the year. Massa’s place at Ferrari was instead filled by Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella.
On 23 December 2009 it was announced Schumacher would be returning to Formula One in the 2010 season alongside fellow German driver Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes GP team. On 16 November Mercedes had taken over the Brawn GP team which was their first majority involvement in an F1 team since 1955. Schumacher stated that his preparations to replace the injured Massa for Ferrari had initiated a renewed interest in F1 which, combined with the opportunity to fulfil a long-held ambition to drive for Mercedes and to be working again with team principal Ross Brawn, led Schumacher to accept the offer once he was passed fit. After a period of intensive training medical tests, it was confirmed that the neck injury that had prevented him driving for Ferrari the year before had fully healed.
Ross Brawn had contacted Schumacher over a potential return to F1 with Mercedes involvement in November 2009, seeking a substitute for the possibly outgoing driver Jenson Button. On November 2, Rubens Barrichello had left Brawn GP followed by Button on 18 November with Rosberg announced by Mercedes as the first replacement driver on 23 November. The possible return of Schumacher began being reported in the German press on 13 December and, ten days later, Mercedes confirmed Schumacher’s return completing their line-up. Schumacher signed a three year contract, reportedly worth £20m, with Mercedes who were thought to want 22-year-old German driver Sebastian Vettel as a long term replacement afterwards. In March 2010, The Daily Mail reported that Schumacher’s deal was closer to £21m (€24m, $32m) a year.
Schumacher’s surprise re-entry to the sport was compared to Niki Lauda’s return in 1982 aged 33 and Nigel Mansell’s return in 1994 at age 41. Schumacher turned 41 on 3 January 2010 and his prospects with Mercedes were compared with the record set by the oldest F1 champion Juan Manuel Fangio who was 46 when he won his fifth championship.
2010: Return to Formula One
Schumacher’s first drive of the 2010 Mercedes car – the Mercedes MGP W01 – was at the official test on 2 February 2010 in Valencia. He finished sixth in the first race of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix. A fortnight later at the Australian Grand Prix Schumacher, after running as high as third on the opening lap, was caught up in a tangle between Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at the start and had to pit for a new front wing. He came from the back to finish in the points in tenth position after spending 20 laps behind Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari. In the Malaysian Grand Prix Schumacher retired early in the race with a faulty wheel nut. Schumacher qualified 9th in the Chinese Grand Prix and finished 10th after being passed by several other drivers in the wet conditions towards the end of the race. After the race former driver Stirling Moss suggested that Schumacher, who had finished behind his team-mate in each of the first four qualifying sessions and races, might be “past it.” Many other respected former Formula One drivers thought otherwise, including former rival Damon Hill, who warned “you should never write Schumacher off.” GrandPrix.com identified the inherent understeer of the Mercedes car, exacerbated by the narrower front tyres introduced for the 2010 season, as contributing to Schumacher’s difficulties. Jenson Button shed some more light on Schumacher’s car trouble when he confessed that the Mercedes 2010 car was designed for him, and that his driving style is poles apart from Schumacher.
For the first European race of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes upgraded their car with revised aerodynamics and a longer wheelbase. Schumacher was ahead of Rosberg in qualifying and the race finishing fourth after defending his position from reigning world champion Jenson Button after the pit stops. At the Monaco Grand Prix Schumacher qualified seventh and finished sixth after passing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on the final corner of the race when the safety car returned to the pits. However he was penalised 20 seconds after the race by the race stewards dropping him to 12th and thus out of the points. The stewards, advised by former world champion Damon Hill, judged the pass to be in breach of rule 40.13 of the sporting code stating that “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.” Mercedes GP had interpreted “the race control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line one” to mean that the race would not finish under the safety car. The FIA subsequently outlined plans to clarify the regulations and Mercedes GP dropped their plans to appeal.
In Turkey, Schumacher had his best qualifying session since his return qualifying fifth ahead of team mate Rosberg in sixth. In the race Schumacher finished fourth which was his best race finish since his return. However 2 races later at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Schumacher finished a lowly 15th – his lowest recorded finish in his career – after being caught up in a controversial safety-car ruling, which also ruined the race of Fernando Alonso. Schumacher was near the front of the field until he was stuck at the end of the pit lane, following the safety car, while the majority of the field passed him. In Hungary, Schumacher finished outside the points in eleventh, but was found guilty of dangerous driving at 180 mph (290 km/h) while unsuccessfully defending tenth position against Rubens Barrichello. As a result he was demoted ten places on the grid for the following race, the Belgian Grand Prix, where he finished seventh, despite starting 21st after his grid penalty.
In the Italian Grand Prix, Schumacher missed out on the top ten in qualifying but managed to finish ninth. A fortnight later at the Singapore Grand Prix, Schumacher finished 13th after the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld collided with him on Lap 36, knocking Heidfeld out of the race. At the Japanese Grand Prix, Schumacher finished sixth before a fourth and seventh in the next two races in Korea and Brazil. At the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Schumacher was involved in a major accident on the first lap, which occurred after Schumacher was spun around by his teammate Nico Rosberg. As Schumacher was trying to maneuver his car back around, Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India ploughed into his Mercedes head-on, barely missing his head. Nobody was hurt in the crash, but Schumacher said the crash had been “frightening.”
It was the first season since his début season in 1991 that Schumacher finished without a win, pole position, podium or fastest lap. He finished the season 9th with 72 points.
At the 2011 Wroom meeting in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, Fernando Alonso, the second most successful Formula One driver still racing, said of Schumacher: “He will be always super class; if the car is right, he will be a contender that we will fear most.”
After an unsuccessful Australian Grand Prix, where he retired due to puncture damage, Schumacher had an average race in Malaysia, finishing in ninth place to score his team’s only points, generally battling it out with the midfield of the pack but ahead of team mate Rosberg, who finished 12th. A problem with his movable rear wing, also known as the drag reduction system resulted in Schumacher qualifying only 14th in China, but he worked his way up to 8th place during the race. He added more points with sixth place in Spain, and at the Canadian Grand Prix, Schumacher had arguably his best performance since returning from retirement. He finished in fourth position, but ran as high as second in a race which was almost entirely contested in wet conditions. Schumacher was passed late in the race by both Jenson Button, who went on to win the race, and Mark Webber, by the use of the DRS.
In Valencia, he crashed into the side of Vitaly Petrov’s Renault while exiting the pit lane, breaking his own front wing, meaning he had to pit again the following lap. This incident left him outside of the points, and eventually finished 17th. In Britain Schumacher locked his front tyres while running behind Kamui Kobayashi, attempted to take avoiding action, and again broke his front wing spinning Kobayashi 180 degrees. As well as pitting to replace the wing, Schumacher served a 10 second stop-go penalty for the incident. Although working his way up to ninth, Schumacher was unhappy with the result and described the Kobayashi incident as his misjudgement. He finished eighth at his home race in Germany, and retired in Hungary with gearbox failure.
Schumacher marked the 20th anniversary of his Formula One début at the Belgian Grand Prix. He set the fastest time in the first free practice session, but after a wheel came loose in qualifying, he had start last on the grid. Despite this, Schumacher put in a very strong performance, ending the race in fifth place and ahead of his team mate Rosberg. Schumacher continued his run of form at the Italian Grand Prix, qualifying eighth and finishing fifth. This race saw a notable duel with Lewis Hamilton for fourth place. Schumacher defended expertly against Hamilton’s faster car, but was also criticised for leaving insufficient overtaking space. After a retirement in Singapore due to contact with Sergio Pérez, Schumacher finished in sixth place at the Japanese Grand Prix, having led three laps during the race, the first time he had led a race since the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix. In doing so, he became the oldest driver to lead a race since Jack Brabham in 1970.
In Korea, Schumacher started the race from twelfth, and was well within the points scoring positions when he was hit from behind by Vitaly Petrov, forcing both drivers to retire. In India, Schumacher struggled in qualifying and qualified twelfth, although he moved up to eleventh after Petrov was given a five-place grid penalty for the incident in Korea; Schumacher blamed his lack of pace on tyre vibrations he experienced on his final run.
After making up three places on the opening lap, Schumacher remained in the top ten for the entire race, eventually finishing fifth, ahead of team-mate Rosberg after overtaking him during the final round of pit-stops. At the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Schumacher qualified eighth and had moved up to sixth after a few corners. He was ahead of Rosberg, and the pair battled over the position for the remainder of the first lap. Rosberg’s overtake eventually meant that he finished in sixth and Schumacher in seventh. Schumacher finished the season with a fifteenth place at the season finale at the Brazilian Grand Prix, following a collision early in the race with Bruno Senna which had forced him to pit for repairs. Schumacher finished the season in eighth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings with 76 points; his best result was fourth place at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Schumacher is again driving for Mercedes AMG in the 2012 Formula One season, alongside Nico Rosberg. At the Australian Grand Prix, Schumacher qualified in fourth place. He moved up to third place at the start of the race, which he held until he suffered a terminal gearbox failure on lap 11. At the second race in Malaysia, Schumacher qualified third, but only managed to collect one point after being hit from behind on the first lap of the race by Romain Grosjean in wet conditions.
For the third race of the season in China, Schumacher qualified 3rd but started in 2nd place due to Lewis Hamilton being penalised. This was the first time since 1955 that Mercedes occupied the front row of the grid, since his team-mate Nico Rosberg scored the first pole position of his career. A mechanic’s error during the first pit-stop forced Schumacher to retire after 13 laps due to a loose wheel. The fourth race was in Bahrain. Schumacher suffered with a defective DRS mechanism in qualifying, which was compounded by a grid-penalty for a gearbox replacement. He started 23rd on the grid, and finished in 10th position. Schumacher had his third retirement of the season in Barcelona, receiving a five place penalty for Monaco after causing a collision with Bruno Senna.
Schumacher was fastest in qualifying at Monaco. However, owing to the penalty for his incident with Senna at Barcelona, he started sixth on the grid. At the start of the race, Schumacher was hit by Romain Grosjean as he attempted to move down the outside, dropping to eighth, before retiring from seventh position late in the race due to falling fuel pressure. The strain of bad luck continued in Canada where a miscalculation from the team in qualifying meant that he couldn’t make it over the line early enough to start his second flying lap. He qualified in 9th position as a result and then retired from the race after his second pit stop because of a jammed DRS flap.
Journalists and reporters approached Schumacher after the Canadian race talking about his bad luck. As of the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix, Schumacher had only finished twice out of 7 races, 4 of the non finishes due to mechanical/team failure. He had also been unlucky in qualifying in Bahrain, Monaco and Canada, particularly in Monaco where he qualified on pole but was awarded a 5 place grid penalty and therefore started 6th. Even though he only had 2 points at this stage, Michael had qualified extremely well with a 4th, two 3rds and one pole. He was running 3rd when he went out of the Australian Grand Prix and when he was hit in the Malaysian Grand Prix. He was also in 2nd when he retired from the Chinese Grand Prix.
In the European Grand Prix, things appeared to continue as they were with bad luck striking again in qualifying, only this time in a different way. There were no mechanical/team failures or accidents this time, it was just that he got knocked out in Q2 because there were only 0.280 seconds seperating P1 and P12 were Schumacher ended up. 0.280 seconds could have been enough to finish Q2 in 2nd position under normal circumstances. Things changed in the race where he finally got some luck at his side and was able to climb his way up to P3 and gain his first podium finish since 2006. At an age of 43 years and 173 days, he became the oldest driver to climb the podium since Jack Brabham’s second place finish at the 1970 British Grand Prix.