|Caption||Schumacher before the 2005 United States Grand Prix.|
|First race||1991 Belgian Grand Prix|
|First win||1992 Belgian Grand Prix|
|Last position||2nd (96 pts)|
Michael Schumacher, born January 3, 1969, in Hürth Hermülheim, near Cologne) is a German Formula One driver and seven-time Formula One world champion. He holds many Formula One records, including those for most drivers championships, race victories, fastest laps, pole positions, and most races won in a single season. Schumacher is the only German to have won the drivers' championship.
Schumacher won the 1990 German Formula Three title before joining the Mercedes-Benz junior driver scheme in the World Sportscar Championship in 1991. He made his debut in Formula One at the age of 21 with the Jordan team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix where, despite his lack of experience, Schumacher matched the team's season-best grid position of seventh. The race-winning Benetton team signed him before the next race, despite what Jordan believed was a binding contract. Schumacher went on to win world championships in 1994 and 1995 with the Anglo-Italian team before joining the then uncompetitive Ferrari team for 1996. In 2000 Michael Schumacher took Ferrari's first driver's championship since 1979. He won the next four championships and in 2004 won 13 of that year's 18 races.
Schumacher has attracted controversy during his long career in the top flight. The Benetton team was investigated several times in 1994 and 1995 for using illegal technology and Ferrari are regularly accused by the other teams of getting their own way with FIA decisions. His rivals have accused him of being excessively ruthless on the track. Although these accusations have not always been supported by the FIA, his results were deleted from the 1997 championship after he was judged to have deliberately driven into title rival Jacques Villeneuve at the final race of the season.
He has been noted throughout his career for his ability to produce fast laps at crucial moments in a race and for his abilities in the wet, earning him the title "Regenmeister" (rain master). As the senior driver in the Formula One world championship, Schumacher has continued to win races up to and including the 2006 season, having won at least one race every season since his first victory in 1992.
Schumacher began kart racing at the age of four and a half. He used a homemade kart built by his father, Rolf, who managed the local karting track in Kerpen, Schumacher's home town. He obtained his first license and began racing competitively by the age of twelve. Between 1984 and 1987, Schumacher won numerous German and European kart championships, including the Formula Konig Series. In 1988 Schumacher raced in the Formula Ford series and competed in the German Formula 3 series for the next two years, 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.
Formula One debut
Schumacher made his Formula One debut with the Jordan-Ford team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix as a replacement driver for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot (incarcerated for spraying CS gas in a London taxi-driver's face). Eddie Jordan signed Schumacher after he greatly impressed at a Silverstone test the previous week, and Schumacher assured Jordan that he had vast experience at the challenging Spa circuit, despite the fact that he had only been around the track once—and on a borrowed bicycle. Michael astonished everyone by qualifying seventh in his first competition in an F1 vehicle, out-qualifying his seasoned team mate, Andrea de Cesaris, an 11-year veteran. He retired on the first lap of the race with clutch problems.
Schumacher became known as an up-and-coming driver in F1 as he claimed his maiden victory in the Belgian Grand Prix with Benetton Ford. In 1992 he finished third ahead of triple world champion Ayrton Senna in the final standings.
1993 was a year of great expectations for Benetton and Schumacher. The German won one race at the Portuguese Grand Prix, but was not able to challenge for the World Title as the Benetton machine was not fully competitive with the technically advanced Williams. The year was once again dominated by Williams and only Senna, in a largely inferior McLaren, was able to challenge Alain Prost, who had at his disposal the strongest package in terms of engine, chassis and especially electronics. Nevertheless, this was a crucial year for developing the Benetton machine as electronic launch and traction controls were incorporated into their Engine Control Unit (ECU) mid way through the year.
Schumacher won his first World Championship in 1994 while driving for Benetton, in an extremely controversial season marred by allegations of cheating and the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
Schumacher started the season strongly, winning six of the first seven races. The raw speed of the Benetton was a surprise to the other teams, who started allegations of cheating. They claimed Benetton had found a way to violate the FIA-imposed ban on electronic aids, including Traction Control and Launch Control. On investigation, the FIA discovered illegal software on their car (and the cars of several rival teams), but could not prove that it had been used.
After Senna's death, Damon Hill inherited the responsibility of fighting for the championship. Hill struggled to keep pace with the Benetton in his Williams-Renault, but due to several mid-season controversial disqualifications and bans for Schumacher, he began to close the gap in the standings. In the British Grand Prix, Schumacher was penalized for overtaking on the formation lap. He then ignored the penalty and the subsequent black flag during the race, for which he was disqualified and later given a two-race ban. Things took a turn for the worse at Spa, where Schumacher was disqualified after winning the race, after his car was found to have illegal wear on its skidblock.
In 1995, Schumacher stayed with Benetton, which had switched to Renault engines. He successfully defended his title, accumulating 33 more points than second-placed Damon Hill. With team-mate Johnny Herbert, he took Benetton to its first Constructors' Championship.
During these two championship seasons, Schumacher's dominance of Formula One was such that he won 17 out of the 31 races and finished on the podium 21 times. Only once did he qualify worse than fourth, which was at the 1995 Belgian Grand Prix, where he qualified 16th, but went on to win the race.
In his first year at Ferrari Schumacher finished third in the Drivers' Championship, behind two Williams drivers. He won races in Spain, Belgium and Italy, the first one in the wet. The worst moment of his season was arguably France, in which he qualified on pole position but suffered an engine failure on the formation lap.
In 1997, he again took the title fight down to the last race, narrowly leading the points for the Drivers' Championship title. Schumacher uncompromisingly crashed into Jacques Villeneuve's Williams Renault after Villeneuve attempted to overtake Schumacher, when the German left the door open under braking into the right-hand 'Dry Sac' hairpin curve at the end of the back-straight of the Jerez circuit. Schumacher ended up on the gravel and out of the race. Villeneuve's badly damaged Williams eventually finished third in the race, thereby winning the Drivers Championship title that year. In a controversial decision by the FIA, Schumacher was disqualified from the World Championship final classification that year, but his results and points were nevertheless kept in the official records.
In 1998, there were tire rule changes in Formula 1 which seemed to favour tyre manufacturer Bridgestone over rival manufacturer Goodyear. Early into the season, it was evident that McLaren, who chose to compete with Bridgestone tyres that year, had the better car. It was then left to Schumacher to challenge the McLaren domination and the fight for the title continued well into the last race. Schumacher had won six races that year, the most memorable of which was in Hungary, where he pitted three times and had to do a whole stint lapping the circuit at qualifying speed, more than a second faster than anyone else to catch up with the McLaren. He also set the record of being the only driver to win a race from the pit lane which he did in the British Grand Prix. Despite the inferiority of the Ferrari, Schumacher pushed hard all the way until the final race in Japan where, after having secured the pole position, he subsequently stalled his Ferrari on the starting grid and had to restart from the back of the grid. He eventually regained lost ground, only to retire some laps later due to a punctured tyre, thereby yielding the title to Mika Häkkinen. Some fans argue that it was not only bad luck that prevented Schumacher from winning the 1998 Drivers' Championship, but also because of Häkkinen's teammate, David Coulthard, whose collision with Schumacher in Belgium, while a lap behind Michael, caused the German to retire and lose vital Championship points. This incident caused a great deal of controversy with Schumacher storming into the McLaren garage after retiring and allegedly accusing Coulthard of trying to kill him. This drew criticism, not least because Schumacher had been involved in several other controversial collisions in previous years.
After several rebuilding years, Schumacher's efforts 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. A stuck throttle caused him to exit the track on the first lap of the race while facing the high-speed, right-hand 'Stowe' corner, and he crashed heavily into a tyre barrier. This accident prevented Schumacher from competing in the next six races. After his return, he assumed the role of a second driver, yielding to his teammate, Eddie Irvine, in order to help his team win a Drivers' Championship title. However, they were once again beaten by Mika Häkkinen in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
In 2000 Schumacher won his third World Championship and more significantly, Ferrari's first since Jody Scheckter in 1979, after a hard-fought year-long battle with Mika Häkkinen. A few races into the 2000 season, Schumacher changed his helmet colours from a white base with a blue top and German flag, to a red base with a red top and German flag. The design and pattern remained the same. This was to avoid confusion between himself and his new team-mate, Rubens Barichello, who had a similar white and blue helmet.
Schumacher won the first 3 races of the season, and 5 of the first 8. Midway through the year, he experienced a run of bad luck, which included being hit from behind at the first corner in two consecutive races. This allowed Häkkinen to overtake Schumacher in the championship standings, but a resounding win at the Italian Grand Prix brought him back on track.
The immense pressure of fighting for the world title showed, when at the post-race press conference at the end of the Italian Grand Prix, Schumacher broke into tears when asked about his feelings on equaling Ayrton Senna's record of 41 race wins.
The championship fight went down to the penultimate race in Japan. Starting from pole position, Schumacher lost his lead to Häkkinen early in the race, but a combination of strong mid-race pace and excellent Ferrari pit-work ensured that he came out ahead of Häkkinen after his second pit-stop and went on to win the race and the Championship.
Schumacher took his fourth drivers' title in a season that lacked the championship drama that had defined the previous four seasons. David Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher (Michael's younger brother), Mika Hakkinen, and rookie Juan Montoya all won races, but none was able to sustain 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.
Season highlights included the Canadian Grand Prix, where Michael finished 2nd to his brother Ralf, thus scoring the first ever 1-2 finish with two brothers, and several on-track battles for the lead with Montoya. At the Belgian Grand Prix Schumacher scored his 52nd career win, thus breaking Alain Prost's record for most career wins.
In a dominant year, Schumacher took his fifth Drivers' title (equaling the record set by Juan Manuel Fangio). Ferrari won 15 out of 17 races and Schumacher wrapped up the title with six races remaining in the season. Schumacher also broke Nigel Mansell's and his own record of 9 race wins for most victories in a season, scoring 11 and finishing every race on the podium.
Again, just Williams' Ralf Schumacher and McLaren Mercedes's Coulthard could take something from Ferrari. Montoya remained someone to battle with, finishing third behind the two Ferraris and clinching 7 pole positions with a special qualifying car, which was sometimes as fast as the Ferrari. This slowed Schumacher's race for another record he was close to reaching, the 65-pole record from Ayrton Senna.
Schumacher broke Fangio's record by winning the Drivers' title for the sixth time in a closely contested season.
The biggest threats once again came from the McLaren Mercedes and BMW Williams F1 teams. His brother Ralf became a regular race contender and scored some victories; more so Juan Pablo Montoya, who was a fierce competitor on track and often getting the best of him. In 2003 Montoya became a title contender even stronger than Kimi Räikkönen and scored a couple of victories, but Ferrari reacted from the Italian Grand Prix onwards and gained a slight car advantage allowing the German to win two more decisive races. After Montoya was penalized in the US GP he was out of the title contention; only Kimi Räikkönen was left. Räikkönen, who had scored consistently in an inferior car, benefited from the points system and had a mathematical chance until the final race, although he had just a single victory to his credit compared to Schumacher's six.
Schumacher won a record twelve of the first thirteen races of the season, only failing to finish in Monaco after a controversial accident with Juan Pablo Montoya under the safety car period. He clinched a record seventh drivers title at the Belgian Grand Prix. Bridgestone had been the key as the tyre was superior to Michelin over the season. He would finish this season with a record 148 points, and a new record of 13 race wins in a season, surpassing the previous best of 11, which he had scored in the 2002 Formula One season.
The 2005 season was a struggle for Schumacher, as the Ferrari package was far from ideal, especially in the use of its Bridgestone tires, which had been dominant in past years but were now of inferior quality. Ferrari and Bridgestone attributed this to the 2005 rule changes, which required tyres to last the distance of the whole race, a change some observers believe was targeted to end the domination of Ferrari and Schumacher. Template:Fact
Less than half-way through the season, the German admitted he didn't have the potential to defend his title. In an interview he said "It's hard to put up a fight when you don't have the same weapons".
Ultimately and most importantly he finished third in the World Championship standings, barely ahead of McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya. His points total included the 10 points from his only victory of the season, the United States Grand Prix, which was only contested by 6 cars due to Michelin tire problems.
Schumacher started 2006 well, narrowly edging out new Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa to take pole position at the first grand prix in Bahrain. Doing so, he equaled Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions that had stood for 12 years after Senna's death. He went on to finish second, behind the Renault of reigning drivers' champion Fernando Alonso, making it his first podium finish in seven races, the last being a second place at the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ferrari's engine troubles resulted in an engine change for Schumacher before qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, demoting him to 14th on the starting grid. He finished the race in 6th, just behind team-mate Felipe Massa. He qualified 11th in changing weather conditions at the Australian Grand Prix and retired from 6th place mid-way through the race after crashing into the wall at the final corner while chasing Jenson Button.
At the San Marino Grand Prix, Schumacher took his 66th pole position, breaking Senna's record of 65. He followed this up with a race win, holding off a challenge from Fernando Alonso despite struggling for pace in the middle stages of the race. Barring the 2005 United States Grand Prix, this was his first win since the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, 18 months earlier. With this win, Schumacher tied his own record with his 7th win at the same track, the other ones being Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in Magny-Cours.
Schumacher's strong form continued at the European Grand Prix, where he beat Fernando Alonso in a closely contested battle, putting in a series of blistering laps before his second pit-stop to emerge in front of Alonso. The Spanish Grand Prix, was rather different for Schumacher, as he finished second, some 18 seconds behind eventual home race winner Fernando Alonso. Schumacher has commented that this is a "blip".
In the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, although Schumacher took pole position with Fernando Alonso 0.064 seconds behind him, there was an uproar in the paddock after the end of qualifying, after he stopped his car on the circuit causing an obstruction for his rivals who were trying to set a faster time. Alonso failed to set a faster laptime than Schumacher's best. After interviewing Schumacher and Ferrari personnel, and reviewing evidence and data provided by the FIA and Ferrari, the race stewards stripped Schumacher of all of his qualifying times. The stewards said Schumacher's actions breached Article 112 of the FIA sporting regulations and that therefore their ruling was final and would not be subject to appeal. Ferrari's director Jean Todt strongly disputed the decision, claiming that "[w]ith no real evidence, the stewards have assumed he is guilty."
Schumacher was widely condemned up and down the pit lane, not only by many of his present-day rivals, but also by several highly-respected figures such as Sir Jackie Stewart and, most bluntly, Keke Rosberg, who said: "he's just a cheap cheat. He should leave F1 to honest people. I thought he had grown up. Does he think we are all fools and idiots?" () During the race itself, Schumacher battled back from the 22nd spot to finish 5th, although he was aided by four cars retiring from in front of him.
At the British Grand Prix he salvaged second by passing Kimi Raikkonen after the second round of stops. He was trapped behind the Finn for most of the race. The Canadian Grand Prix was much of the same for Schumacher as he was stuck behind Jarno Trulli at the start of the race. He passed Trulli at the final chicane before he made his first stop and snatched second from Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn ran wide at the hairpin with two laps to go. After qualifying on Pole position for the US Grand Prix, Schumacher was passed by team-mate Felipe Massa at the first corner but by lap 30 was back in front, going on to win the race. After his win, he is the only racing driver ever, in any racing class, to win five times on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After winning the French GP on July 16th, 2006, Michael Schumacher became the only driver in history to win the same Grand Prix eight times.Schumacher then proceeded to win the German GP, a result that gave him a hat-trick of wins following those of France and America. With championship rival Fernando Alonso finishing the race 5th, Schumacher reduced the gap between the two to 11 points with 6 races remaining. At this point, Schumacher can win the Drivers' Championship by winning the final six races, regardless of Alonso's results. Schumacher is now only three wins short of the combined total of wins of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
The practice sessions of the Hungarian GP brought a lot of controversy. Fernando Alonso was penalised for two incidents in the second free practice, receiving a two second penalty in every qualifying round. Schumacher, who could have used to opportunity to reduce Alonso's lead further, also suffered a two second penalty for overtaking two cars, one of them being Alonso, during a red flag situation. Schumacher qualified in 11th position, while Alonso qualified 15th on the grid. He had an up and down race eventually retiring 2 laps from home after colliding with Nick Heidfeld. He was classified 9th but was soon promoted to 8th following Robert Kubica's disqualification.
At the Turkish Grand Prix Ferrari looked very strong against the opposition and they even set the fastest time through Michael Schumacher in the third practice session in the Saturday morning. For the three 15 minute qualifying sessions Michael was the fastest for the first two sessions under a light fuel load. However at the start of his hot laps in the third session Michael made a mistake by out braking himself down into the first corner. The mistake then made Michael take it a bit easier in the first sector for his remaining hot laps. At the end of the final session Michael qualified second just behind his teammate Felipe Massa for Massa's first pole of the season and, more importantly he qualified in front of Fernando Alonso who qualified third without the controversial mass dampers in his Renault. At the start he nearly made contact with Fernando Alonso but managed to hold off him and was comfortably ahead of him until Liuzzi from Scuderia Toro Rosso had a spin off at the first corner and the safety car had to come out to assist the marshals as the car was on the racing line. This bunched up the pack again and because Felipe Massa was leading Michael had to come into the pits and wait 6 seconds for Felipe to make his stop while Alonso could just pit and leave. These few seconds are what proved the difference for Michael and Alonso as they had a strong contest with Michael being easily stronger under brakes but Alonso was quicker in turn 8 by a couple of seconds which proved the difference as Michael could only close in on the Renault but couldn't pass him. In the end of the race Felipe Massa reached the finish first by 6 seconds with Michael less than a tenth of a second bahind Alonso. This now means that with four races left the championship points are 108 - 96, Alonso's way. 12 points separate the two champions, but Schumacher says that he still has a good shot at the title.
Notable battles with Damon Hill
Through his long carreer, Michael Schumacher has had many opponents. Yet none of them he battled so fiercely with as with Damon Hill:
- Japan 1994: Schumacher led the early stages of the rain-soaked event only for the race to be stopped after Brundle's McLaren crashed. Hill took over the lead at the re-start and pushed very hard to beat Schumacher, the acknowledged ‘rain master’, in the wet and take the title fight to the final race of the season in Australia.
- Adelaide 1994: Schumacher went off the track while leading the last race of the season. He returned to the track at reduced speed where Hill tried to pass him at the next corner. The two collided and both retired. The world title went to Schumacher by a single point.
- Silverstone 1995: At his home grand prix and trailing Schumacher by 11 points in the championship, Hill attempted to pass the German going into Priory 11 laps from the end of the race. The two collided again and both retired. Hill described it as a "racing incident" while Schumacher compared it to Adelaide 1994. Frank Williams, Hill's teamboss, apologized to Benetton for the crash, reportedly calling his driver a "prat".
- Spa 1995: The two made contact at the Les Combes corner after Schumacher (on dry tires) swerved while trying to hold off Hill (on wet tires) on a wet track. On this occasion Schumacher received a one-race suspended ban.
- Monza 1995: On lap 24 Hill hit Schumacher from behind while both were lapping Taki Inoue. Both retired, and neither accepted blame. Hill questioned why Schumacher was "suddenly doing nought miles an hour", while a majority of Schumacher fans described it as a "stupid move" by Hill. Hill received a suspended one-race ban, which was never put into effect.
- Nurburgring 1995: On lap 18 Hill attempted to overtake Schumacher but the German blocked and squeezed him to the edge of the track. Hill locked up and hit the back of the Benetton. Both continued, with Schumacher winning and Hill spinning off late in the race. During the cool-down lap Hill applauded Schumacher's victory and gave a thumbs-up from the side of the track as Schumacher passed.
- Hungary 1997: After qualifying third in the usually uncompetitive Arrows, Hill passed Schumacher cleanly on the inside on lap 11 going into the first corner before pulling away into the lead of the race.
- Canada 1998: Schumacher accused Hill of "dangerously bobbing and weaving" while they were dicing for second.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
* Schumacher was disqualified from the 1997 WDC due to dangerous driving in the European Grand Prix, where he caused an avoidable accident with Villeneuve. His points tally would have placed him in second place in that year's standings.
Formula One records
|1||Championship titles||7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)|
|2||Consecutive titles||5 (2000–2004)|
|4||Consecutive wins Consecutivewins (1)||7 (2004, Europe–Hungary)|
|5||Wins with one team||72 (Ferrari)|
|6||Wins at same GP||8 (France)|
|7||Wins at different GPs||22|
|8||Longest Time between first and last wins||14 years, 1 month and 2 days|
|10||Podiums (Top 3)||154|
|11||Consecutive podium finishes||19 (US 2001–Japan 2002)|
|13||Consecutive points finishes||24 (Hungary 2001–Malaysia 2003)|
|14||Laps leading||4741 (22,155 km)|
|16||Front row starts||115|
|18||Doubles (Pole and win)||40|
|19||Perfect Score (Pole, fastest lap and win)||22|
|21||Most points in a season for a runner-up||121 (2006)|
|22||Most wins in a season for a runner-up vice (2)||7 (2006)|
|23||Wins at Indianapolis (any racing class)||5|
|24||Wins at Monza (Formula One)||5|
|25||Wins in a season||13 (2004)|
|26||Fastest laps in a season Fastest (3)||10 (2004)|
|27||Points scored in a season||148 (2004)|
|28||Podium finishes in a season||17 (100%) (2002)|
|29||Championship won with most races left||6 (2002)|
|30||Consecutive years with a win||15 (1992–2006)|
|31||Consecutive days as champion||1813 (from 8 October 2000 until 25 September 2005)|
note: (1) Consecutivewins Record shared with Alberto Ascari (1952 Belgian GP–1953 Argentine GP). Some sources credit Ascari with nine consecutive wins, disregarding the 1953 Indianapolis 500 race, in which Ascari did not compete. The American race formed part of the world championship, but was not run to the same regulations as the other races and was very rarely attended by world championship drivers.
Formula One records
As of the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher holds the following F1 records:
- Most race wins: 89 (previous record beaten in 2001)
- Most race wins with one team: 70
- Most podium finishes: 152
- Most second place finishes: 43
- Most points finishes: 187
- Most pole positions: 68
- Most fastest laps: 75
- Most race wins from pole position: 40
- Most "clean-sweeps" (pole position, race win, and fastest lap): 22
- Most championship points: 1,344
- Only racing driver ever, in any racing class, to win 5 times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- Only driver in history to win the same Grand Prix 8 times at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours
- Only driver to lead over 5,000 laps.(Achieved at 2006 German Grand Prix)
- Most time between first and last race wins: 13 years, 11 months, and 3 days
- Most championship titles: 7 (previous record beaten in 2003)
- Most consecutive championship titles: 5
- Most race wins in a season: 13 (in 18 races) (previous record tied in 1995, 2000, and 2001 and beaten in 2002)
- Most consecutive race wins: 7 (European GP, Canadian GP, United States GP, French GP, British GP, German GP, Hungarian GP)
- Most fastest laps in a season: 10 (in 18 races)
- Most championship points in a season: 148 (out of a maximum of 180)
- Most consecutive race finished without retirement 24 (Alonso broke series of 22 at Hugaroring 2006)
- Most podium finishes in a season: 17 (in 17 races)
Schumacher is noted for his ability to get the most out of his team and car, for his wet weather abilities, and for his ability to turn fast laps at key parts of the race (such as pitstops).
Schumacher is also known for his ability to unite the team around him. This ability often leads to increased success for Schumacher and the team, but can also alienate his teammates. Johnny Herbert (Michael's teammate at Benetton in 1995) in particular complained publicly about what he saw as favoritism for Schumacher from the team. Schumacher's supporters claim there is nothing wrong with the team being centered around Schumacher, as Schumacher has invariably been faster than his teammates and thus more capable of bringing success to the team.
On the track, Schumacher has a very on-the-edge driving style.
Schumacher's wet weather abilities are legendary. One example of this talent was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, where Schumacher took his first victory for Ferrari in dominant fashion, despite the fact that his car was notably inferior to the Williams cars. At one point, Schumacher was pulling away by several seconds per lap in the torrential downpour. Another notable win was the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, where Schumacher took intermediate tires while everybody else took full wet tires after a monsoon hit half the track. Within a handful of laps Schumacher had charged from 11th place to the lead, eventually taking a dominant win.
Schumacher often uses his ability to produce fast laps at important times in a race to pass opponents during pitstops, an important talent in Formula 1, where overtaking is notoriously difficult. When Schumacher catches an opponent on the track, he will often wait behind him until the opponent has to make a pitstop to refuel. While the opponent is struggling to get up to speed in a car that is heavy with fuel, Schumacher will take advantage of the clear track in front of him and his car's lighter weight to turn a series of fast laps. Often these fast laps will create enough of a gap between Schumacher and the opponent so that Schumacher can make his own pitstop and come out in front of the opponent. Schumacher has used this tactic countless times, with the most famous example coming at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix where Schumacher used the tactic to overtake Mika Hakkinen and clinch Ferrari's first World Drivers' Championship since 1979.
Since the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher has been widely regarded as the fastest driver in F1 and the dominant driver of recent times. However, much like Senna, his career has at times been controversial, with many critics and fans questioning his sportsmanship and driving tactics and the apparent standing team orders which require his teammates to play a subservient role.
For those who question Schumacher's driving style, the two most noted incidents are the 1994 Australian Grand Prix crash with Damon Hill and the 1997 European Grand Prix crash with Jacques Villeneuve. Both of these incidents decided the World Championship, and Schumacher's critics allege that both incidents were intentional attempts by Schumacher to crash his rival out of the race.
The 1994 Australian Grand Prix was the final round of the 1994 season, and Schumacher entered the race with a single point advantage over Damon Hill. Schumacher led the race from the start, but with Hill applying heavy pressure late in the race, Schumacher made an error and ran wide off the track, bumping the wall. Whether the car was damaged in the impact is unknown, and still the subject of considerable debate. Schumacher managed to get his car back on track in front of Hill but had lost momentum as a result of his driving error. Hill took the opportunity to go for the overtaking manoeuver and moved for the inside on the next corner. Schumacher turned into Hill's car, with Schumacher's right rear tire striking Hill's left front. Schumacher's car crashed into the outside wall, while Hill was forced to pull out due to suspension damage. The double-retirement meant that Schumacher won the 1994 World Championship. Schumacher's critics allege that, knowing his car was damaged, he intentionally drove his car into Hill's in order to take the Briton out of the race. Schumacher denies this allegation, and the FIA took no action against him.
During the 1997 European Grand Prix Schumacher was leading the race, followed by Villeneuve. Similar to the 1994 incident, a win for either driver would guarantee him the World Championship. Villeneuve attempted to overtake Schumacher approaching a right-handed corner; as the French Canadian passed, Schumacher's car turned sharply into the side of his car. Villeneuve managed to keep control of his car, but Schumacher's car bounced off Villeneuve's and into the gravel trap, where it became stuck. Villeneuve went on to finish third, behind Mika Häkkinen (his first F1 win) and David Coulthard, which was sufficient to win the World Championship. Once again, Schumacher denied any wrongdoing, but this time the FIA took action, stripping him of his second place in the final World Championship standings (with Heinz-Harald Frentzen moving from third to second), while retaining his results and points for the season.
Schumacher's critics allege that Schumacher practices poor sportsmanship to gain an unfair advantage over his rivals.
In qualifying for the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix after setting the fastest lap Schumacher drove round slowly on the racing line almost causing a collision with Gerhard Berger who was still on a fast lap. Berger had to spin his car to avoid a collision. Schumacher claimed afterwards that he believed that the session had finished and apologized to Berger. Berger was furious and referred the matter to the Stewards but they took no action.
In 1998 season, Schumacher created controversy by winning the British GP in pit lane. He was issued a 10s stop-and-go penalty for overtaking during the Safety Car laps. Knowing that a conventional in-stop-out penalty would lose him the race to championship contender Mika Häkkinen, he delayed going into the pit for the penalty the allowed number of laps and only served the penalty at the end of the race, thus avoided the slow out lap from the pit that would have caused him to lose the race. However, the FIA ruled this completely legal.
In 2003 European Grand Prix, Schumacher was helped back to the track by marshals (one a tractor driver in civilian clothing) when he ended up high-sided on the kerb after a spin. Many fans believed that this was illegal, as drivers may not receive outside assistance to get back on the track. However, an exception is made if a car is in a dangerous position, and the FIA judged that this was indeed the case. Schumacher's critics complained of a double-standard, which they believe was substantiated by the marshals' refusal to aid Fernando Alonso in the 2004 Italian Grand Prix when he was in a similar situation. However, the rules for this situation had changed as the exception in the 2003 rules had been removed in the 2004 version. Schumacher also received a push from the marshals in the 2005 Australian Grand Prix, although he retired anyway due to suspension damage after driving back to the pits. Schumacher's supporters note that he isn't the first driver to be helped by a push from a dangerous situation, indeed Riccardo Patrese won the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix having got a push from the marshals after a spin on the penultimate lap.
In qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix Schumacher set the fastest lap time. He then took the Rascasse corner wide, narrowly avoided contacting the wall, before stalling his engine. The subsequent yellow flag prevented other runners from completing their qualifying runs. His main championship opponent, Fernando Alonso was on a qualifying run at the time, and looked set to post a faster time than Schumacher. Three times world champion Jackie Stewart accused Schumacher of leaving his car there on purpose to ensure his competitors could not better his lap time. As a result of an inquiry by stewards into the incident Schumacher was stripped of all times set in the qualifying session. This forced him to start from back of the grid, whereas his arch-rival Fernando Alonso was promoted to pole position. Schumacher and Ferrari maintain that the incident was accidental.
During Schumacher's dominance in the first half of the 2000s, he created much controversy not only around him but his team Ferrari and race director Jean Todt, because of the way they were manipulating the race results by swapping finishing positions with Rubens Barrichello, the other Ferrari driver at the time. This had also affected Eddie Irvine during his time partnering Schumacher in Ferrari from 1996 until 1999, for example when Schumacher in the lead let Irvine pass to win the 1999 Malaysian GP and gain critical points, when Irvine was fighting for the Driver's world championship. Yet some think Ferrari team orders was a major factor in Irvine's move to Jaguar in 2000.
The most infamous episode of usage of 'team orders' by Ferrari was at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix where the team ordered Barrichello, who was leading the race, to move over for Schumacher to take the win. The move, embarrassing for F1 fans and media, was done after the very last corner of the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix. This led to a disgusted reception on the podium where an embarrassed Schumacher ushered Barrichello onto the top step. It also led to trouble for bookmakers and betting agencies. The result was a ban on team orders and a $1 million fine for Ferrari for disrupting the podium ceremony($500,000 to be paid immediately, with the remainder remitted subject to "good behaviour" during the next 12 months). Nevertheless, team orders are at times practiced by many teams and, despite bans by the FIA, can be executed discreetly.
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 Benetton he was consistently dominant over his teammates; since moving to Ferrari, his team has guaranteed he is given a clear Number 1 status. Furthermore, his dominance over his teammates spans his entire 14-year career, including Brundle, Irvine, Barrichello, Verstappen, JJ Lehto, Herbert, and current teammate Massa.
In more recent years, however, Schumacher's success with Ferrari, moderation of his on-track tactics, and a more relaxed public persona have rehabilitated his image for most fans, although the collisions with Hill and Villeneuve have not been forgotten by many Formula One fans, who are quick to point out poor sportsmanship.
Michael Schumacher has won the coveted Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award in 2002 and 2004 for his outstanding performance in the 2001 and 2003 seasons respectively. He joins a select group of sports personalities to win the award - golfer Tiger Woods, cyclist Lance Armstrong and tennis player Roger Federer. In its 7-year history, no other sportsman has been nominated more times than Schumacher, who also received nominations for the 2001, 2003 and 2005 awards.
Schumacher married Corinna Betsch in August 1995. They have two children together, daughter Gina-Maria (b. 1997) and son Mick (b. 1999), and reside in Vufflens-le-Château, Switzerland, near Lake Geneva. Schumacher is very 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), watching films, karaoke, playing tennis, swimming, and skiing. He has received some nicknames along with his career, including the "Red Baron", "Cannibal" (for his domination and record beating), "Spoonface" due to the shape of his face, "Schuey" and "Schumi". In Germany he is sometimes called "Schwiegermutters Liebling" (mother in law's favourite), because he is seen as a steady family person and he was never involved in personal scandals like Boris Becker.
In 2005, Schumacher donated US$10 million to charity for 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, and Cramer's two sons, had died while on holiday in Phuket, Thailand. In fact, his donation surpassed that of any other sportsperson, most sports leagues, many worldwide corporations and even some countries.
Combining his hobby of football with charity, Schumacher has participated in several friendly games together with other Formula One drivers to raise money for charity.
Road safety awareness
In 1997, the FIA tasked Schumacher to promote road safety as part of his punishment conditions for the incident in Jerez. Although initially short term, he is still an active advocate of road safety, and an iconic supporter of the FIA's initiatives to promote road safety around the world. Along with Max Mosley, he was a keynote speaker at the launch and official signing of the European Road Safety Charter in Dublin on 6 April 2004.
He also participated in the global launch of the FIA's Think Before You Drive campaign at the 2005 Spanish Grand Prix along with then Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
Special ambassador to UNESCO
Schumacher is a special ambassador to UNESCO and has donated US$3 million to the organization. He has funded projects for the construction of a school in Senegal, a clinic in Sarajevo and a centre for street children in Peru. He has even taken the rare step of visiting Sarajevo to see how his funding has benefited child victims of war. For his contribution, he was named a UNESCO Champion For Sport by its Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in 2002.
As of 2004, Schumacher earns an estimated US$80 million annually, including all his endorsement deals. One notable deal is with the German investment counseling company Deutsche Vermögensberatung, which will pay him US$8 million over three years for wearing a four-inch advertisement on his post-race hat.
In early March 2006, the Spanish press reported that Michael Schumacher will play a small role in the upcoming movie Asterix at the Olympic Games, together with football star David Beckham and retired player Zinedine Zidane.
Michael Schumacher himself delivered a vocal performance in Disney-Pixar's animated feature film Cars. His character in the film, a trademark Rosso Corsa Ferrari F430 who comes to Luigi's Casa della Tires (which makes Luigi himself and his friend Guido faint from joy), was named after him.
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