“Michael Schumacher is the greatest of all time, not just because of the numbers but because he voluntarily left a team he could have won more championships with to bring Ferrari back – Wonderful words by the late great Murray Walker.
Coming to our screens on September 15th via Netflix is their latest Formula One documentary titled Schumacher, 1hr 52minutes looking back on the career of the legend of Formula One, in honour of the documentary and the man himself were going to take a look back on the career of Michael Schumacher the greatest to ever sit behind a wheel of an F1 car.
Start Them Young
Schumacher was four years old when he was first behind the wheel of vehicle powered by an engine, his father modified a pedal kart by adding a small motorcycle engine. When Schumacher crashed it into a lamp post his parents took him to the karting track at Kerpen-Horrem, it was here his journey began where he became the youngest member of the karting club.
The laws in Germany require a driver to be at least 14 years old to obtain a karting license. To get around this, Schumacher obtained a license in Luxembourg at the age of 12.
In 1983, Schumacher obtained his German license, a year after he won the German Junior Kart Championship. From 1984 onwards Schumacher won many German and European kart championships.
Joining Eurokart dealer Adolf Neubert in 1985 and by 1987 becoming the German and European kart champion, then he quit school and began working as a mechanic. In 1988 Schumacher made his first step into single-seat racing by participating in the German Formula Ford and Formula König series, of which he won the latter.
A rivalry in the making
In 1989, Schumacher signed with Willi Weber‘s WTS Formula Three team. Funded by Weber, Schumacher competed in the German Formula 3 series, winning the title in 1990. He also won the Macau Grand Prix in 1990 under controversial circumstances.
Placed second behind Mika Häkkinen in the first heat, three seconds behind. Schumacher overtook Häkkinen, who only had to finish within three seconds of Schumacher to clinch the overall win.
In the closing laps, Schumacher made a mistake, allowing Häkkinen to attempt to overtake. Michael changed his line immediately before Häkkinen did the same as the latter moved to overtake, and Häkkinen crashed into the back of Schumacher’s car.
While Häkkinen’s race was ended, Schumacher cruised to victory without a rear wing.
Formula 1 Debut
Schumacher made his Formula One debut with the Jordan-Ford team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, as a replacement for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot. Donning the number 32 and still a contracted Mercedes driver, Eddie Jordan made his move.
During the race weekend, his teammate Andrea de Cesaris was supposed to show Schumacher the circuit but was held up with contract negotiations. Schumacher, not one to sit about waiting learned the track on his own, by cycling around the track on a fold-up bike he had brought with him.
Schumacher opened eyes and impressed many of the paddock by qualifying seventh in this race. This was even more special as it matched the team’s season-best grid position, and out-qualified the 11-year veteran de Cesaris.
Although it wasn’t meant to be as Schumacher retired on the first lap of the race with clutch problems.
Benetton : Beginning of a Legend
Schumacher finished the 1991 season with just four points out of six races. With a highest finish of fifth in his second race, the Italian Grand Prix, in which he finished ahead of his teammate and three-time World Champion Nelson Piquet.
1992 Schumacher took his place on the podium for the first time, finishing third in the Mexican Grand Prix. Going on to take his first victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, in a wet race at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the track fondly known as Spa would go on to be the favourite track of Schumacher, finishing third in the Drivers’ Championship in 1992 with 53 points, three points behind runner-up Patrese.
The 1993 season Schumacher won one race, the Portuguese Grand Prix where he beat Prost, and also had a impressive nine podium finishes, but retired in seven of the other 15 races. Finishing the season in fourth, with 52 points.
The 1994 season was Schumacher’s first Drivers’ Championship with Benetton. Although it was marred by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the San Marino Grand Prix.
Schumacher won six of the first seven races and was leading 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, becoming the first German to do so, at the FIA conference after the race, the new World Champion dedicated his title to Ayrton Senna.
In 1995 Schumacher successfully defended his title with Benetton. Equipped with the same Renault engine as Williams. He accumulated 33 more points than second-placed Damon Hill. With teammate Johnny Herbert, he took Benetton to its first Constructors’ Championship and became the youngest two-time World Champion in Formula One history.
Resurrecting the Prancing Pony
In 1996, Schumacher joined Ferrari, a team that had last won the Drivers’ Championship in 1979 and the Constructors’ Championship in 1983 raising the eyebrows of the paddock could Schumacher bring back success to the once-great team after 13 years of heartache.
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, this was more than the team’s total tally for the period of 1991 to 1995. Early in the 1996 season, the car had reliability trouble and Schumacher did not finish six of the 16 races.
Schumacher took his first win for Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix, where he lapped the entire field up to third place in the wet.
After finishing 2nd place in 1997 and 1998 Schumacher’s efforts helped Ferrari win the Constructors’ title in 1999.
Although 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.
Schumacher was replaced by Finnish driver Mika Salo. After missing six races he made his return at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, qualifying in pole position by almost a second. He then assumed the role of the second driver, assisting teammate Eddie Irvine’s bid to win the Drivers’ Championship for Ferrari.
But it wasn’t to be as 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 during his career.
Returning glory years to Ferrari
2000-2004 saw Michael Schumacher cement his legacy as the greatest ever, 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. After 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.
In 2002, Schumacher used the Ferrari F2002 to retain his Drivers’ Championship. 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 was 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 11 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 nine of the 17 races in the first two places.
2003 again saw their biggest competition come in the form of The biggest competition McLaren Mercedes and Williams BMW teams. At the final round, the Japanese Grand Prix, Schumacher needed only one point whilst Kimi 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 12 of the first 13 races of the season, only failing to finish in Monaco. He clinched a record seventh drivers’ title at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Finishing the season with a record 148 points, 34 points ahead of the runner-up, teammate Rubens Barrichello, and setting a new record of 13 race wins out of a possible 18, surpassing his previous best of 11 wins from the 2002 season.
With Schumacher 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.
With Schumacher confirming his retirement, the press release stated that Schumacher would continue working for Ferrari. It was revealed on Ferrari wanted Schumacher to act as an assistant to the newly appointed CEO Jean Todt.
A role that 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-around racing driver in the history of Formula One.
During December 2009 it was announced that Schumacher would be returning to Formula One in the 2010 season alongside fellow German driver Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes GP team.
Schumacher finished the season ninth with 72 points. The first time since his debut season that he finished without a win, pole position, podium or fastest lap.
Schumacher finished the 2011 season in eighth place in the Drivers’ Championship, with 76 points with his highest finishes being in P4.
2012 was the final season for Michael Schumacher and at least we got to see Schumacher on the podium one final time. At the European Grand Prix, Schumacher finished third in the race, his only podium finish since his return to F1 with Mercedes.
At the age of 43 years and 173 days, he became the oldest driver to achieve a podium since the 1970 British Grand Prix. Further records were set by Schumacher in Germany, where he set the fastest lap in a Grand Prix for the 77th time in his career, and in Belgium where he became the second driver in history to race in 300 Grands Prix.
His 21-year F1 career concluded with the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, in which Schumacher finished seventh. He placed 13th in the 2012 Drivers’ Championship with 49 points.
Career in Numbers
7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
In Formula 1 records will always be broken, drivers will come and go but Michael Schumacher was not just a generational talent but a man that will go down in history as the Greatest.
This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Kay Rees, the most fanatical Michael Schumacher fan and greatest of all time.
Main Image Credits- Embed from Getty Images