Name: Michael Schumacher
Nickname: Schumi, Red Baron, Regenmeister (Rain master)
Born: Hurth Hermulheim, Germany
Birth Date: Jan 3, 1969
Star Sign: Capricorn
Marital Status: Married
Profile: Michael Schumacher was 4 years old when a chance encounter with the lamp post while driving his kart on the pavement forced his father to enroll him in the local karting track. After repeatedly winning against bigger boys with better karts using a kart constructed out of 10th-hand parts fished out from the garbage, he was almost kicked out of the kart track for scaring potential customers away. Michael made it into the local news often and won his first karting championship at 6…and has been winning championships ever since. Noticing that the young boy could drive rather fast, various affluent families and friends supported him financially as he went on to become the German karting champion, European karting champion and Formula Konig champion in the next three years before finishing school and embarking on a career as a mechanic. Michael’s utter commitment and professionalism was evident even as a child when he spent every spare moment either racing karts or training both physically and mentally for the job. “Racing was his life. It was all his life” says a friend from his earlier days.
It was now that he met Willi Weber who was running a Formula 3 team called WTS, and Weber who had been told “There is one driver who is in a class of his own called Michael Schumacher, he is the one you want” had also observed Michael in a Formula Koenig race. Webber offered Michael a test, and it took Michael one hour on the track before he was 1.5 seconds quicker than Webber’s regular driver. When Michael told Webber he couldn’t race for WTS as he had no money, Webber offered him a drive at no cost and a 10 year management contract. Webber would go on to manage Michael’s career throughout and remain an integral part of the Schumacher inner circle. Michael started racing in Formula 3 in 1989, winning the championship in 1990 before joining Mercedes junior racing program to compete in the Sportscar championship.
It was only a matter of time before Michael made his F1 debut. He got his big chance in the summer of 91 when Bertrand Gachot of Jordan was imprisoned for his altercation with a London taxi driver, and Eddie Jordan decided to let Michael step in as the replacement for a cost. The Silverstone test session was Michael’s first time in a F1 car and the 22 year old German was told that the car he was testing was in fact his race car and he just couldn’t afford to damage it. “Yeah no problem” came the calm reply and it just took Michael a few laps to get on pace. He was called in 3 times and asked to slow down before Weber reported “Michael doesn’t understand what the problem is. He’s in control”. Team manager Foster asked the Jordan commercial director to ring Eddie Jordan and “tell him we have found a star”. And thus the legend began.
Michael qualified a phenomenal seventh in his grand prix debut at Spa 91, outpacing his teammate – a veteran of 11 years. Despite his race coming to a premature end owing to clutch problems, Michael had already created the requisite buzz. He was snatched from Jordan rather controversially and put in a Bennetton for the very next race, where he finished 3 of the remaining 5 races in points outqualifying his world champion teammate Nelson Piquet who retired at the end of the season.
In 1992 – his first full season in F1, Schumacher proved the hype surrounding him was indeed true by clinching a podium in the very second race. He finished 8 of the 16 races that season on the podium, with his first victory coming at Spa. He was third in the world championship at the end of the year, only the superior Williams finishing ahead of him. World champion Mansell said of Schumacher “The only thing he has to learn is how to drive slowly. Everything else he can do already”. 1993 was the last year Schumacher spent in incubation training for the championship. He collected 9 more podiums including another win at Portugal – incredibly he finished every race that he completed that year on the podium.
1994 was a dark year for F1 filled with controversy – with Senna’s tragic demise in Imola and unfounded allegations of cheating against Bennetton (which were never subsequently proved). Michael won the first four races of the season and finished second in the 5th despite being stuck in fifth gear for a large part of the race. He was displaying not only raw speed and supreme talent, but also the ability to nurse his car to the finish line, gaining reputation as a thinking driver. He won 8 races that year and clinched his first WDC despite missing out on four races (owing to controversial disqualifications and bans), and despite the Williams being the better car that year. At 26, Schumacher won his second consecutive world championship to become the youngest double world champion. His 9 wins included the one at Spa where he qualified 16th and finished first. Michael’s legend was growing, and he was clearly a class apart from the rest of the field. Michael married his girlfriend of 4 years – Corrina Betsch in August 1995. He then left Bennetton for Ferrari at the end of 95, and Ferrari’s last world champion had been Jody Schekter in 1979. As Michael took up the challenge of bringing back the championships to Maranello and restoring its lost glory, Bennetton would win just one more race in the next 5 years before being bought by Renault.
Schumacher’s initial stint at Ferrari was far from smooth and the car was plagued by severe reliability issues – as Giovanni Agnelli famously declared “If we don’t win the championship with Schumacher, the fault is with the car and the team”. Michael won 3 races in 1996, including a stunning drive in the wet in Spain to snatch his first victory at Ferrari, further cementing his status as the new ‘Rainmaster’. He established a special bond with team boss Jean Todt whom he would later refer to as surrogate father, and the two were instrumental in bringing Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne to Ferrari in 1997 to complete the dream team.
In the three years from 1997 to 1999 Ferrari came close to clinching the championship three times. Michael won 5 races in 1997 and fought long and hard against the much superior Williams before controversially running into rival Jacques Villeneuve in the last race – a move that provoked extreme censure from the paddock and fans worldwide. However Michael was also putting in insane hours together with the team in testing and threshing out issues to get Ferrari back to the top where she belonged, and his commitment and sheer professionalism won him the love and respect of his team. The men in red were all utterly loyal to Schumacher as he was to them, never once speaking deprecatingly of the team or its efforts to the media. 1998 brought in fresh heartbreak as they lost out on the championship again in the last race with Michael’s car stalling on the starting grid. When Michael broke his leg in Silverstone 99 when it looked like he was sailing smoothly, the team’s championship challenge was beginning to look jinxed.
However 2000-2004 saw the Ferrari era with the team clinching 5 WDCs and 5 WCCs in 5 years – a complete redwash. After a very close 2000 season which saw Ferrari end the 21 year championship drought as Michael took the WDC in the penultimate race at Suzuka, there was no looking back. The team went from strength to strength as records tumbled and Michael went on to win 7 world championships totally also rewriting the record books completely in the process. The unprecedented domination of one team and one driver led to a number of rule changes in F1 to stop Ferrari’s winning run, which ultimately came to end in 2005.
Despite a lukewarm 2005 season, Michael and Ferrari bounced back in 2006 to challenge for both championships, losing out closely only in the last race of the season. Michael announced his retirement from the sport at Monza in 2006, finally finishing as one of the sport’s greatest drivers if not the greatest – with 7 world championships and 91 wins. He currently lives in Switzerland with his wife and two children Gina Maria (10) and Mick (7). Off the track, he is an ambassador for UNESCO and spokesman for road safety, and is known to have donated at least 50 million dollars over the last four years towards various humanitarian causes. He remains associated with Ferrari in the unspecified role of ‘Super Assistant’ to CEO Jean Todt.