Michael Schumacher (born January 3, 1969) is a German Formula One (F1) driver. He is statistically the most successful F1 driver ever, with the most career victories, and a record seven world driver championships. As of 2004, he earns an estimated US$80 million annually; this includes all of his endorsement deals. One notable deal is with the German investment counselling Deutsche Vermögensberatung , which will pay him US$8 million over three years for him to wear a four-inch ad on his post-race hat.
Schumacher was born in Hürth (close to Cologne). He began racing karts at the age of four in a home-made kart built by his father, Rolf, who managed the local karting track (located in Kerpen, Schumacher's hometown). He obtained his first license, and began racing competitively, by age twelve. Between 1984 and 1987, Michael won numerous German and European kart championships, including the Formula Konig series. 1988 saw Schumacher race in the Formula Ford series, while the next two years he competed in the German Formula 3 series, winning the title in 1990. In 1991, he continued up the racing ladder, racing in the Formula 3000 championship in Japan. He also dabbled in the German Touring Car championship in the early 1990s, winning races in Mexico City and at Autopolis.
Schumacher in the Paddock at the USGP
Schumacher made his F1 debut in 1991 as a replacement driver for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot (incarcerated for spraying CS gas into a London taxicab-driver's face). Eddie Jordan signed Michael for his Jordan team at the Belgian Grand Prix, where Michael astonished everyone by qualifying seventh, in his first competition in an F1 vehicle. He was quickly signed on by Benetton-Ford for the next race, and immediately showed great potential. The following year, 1992, he won his first F1 race (again at the Belgian Grand Prix, on August 30), and he placed third that year in the driver championship.
Schumacher won his first championship in 1994 driving for Benetton in an extremely closely-contested season. He won the first four races of the year, and six of the first seven events. However, the latter portion of the year saw challenger Damon Hill inch closer and closer in the standings, aided by two technical disqualifications of Schumacher's Benetton (in Britain and Belgian Grand Prix). Leading by a single point going into the final round in Australia, Schumacher clinched the title after a collision with Hill ended both driver's races. Schumacher successfully defended his crown in the 1995 season, winning the title easily by over 30 points from Hill again. With teammate Johnny Herbert, he also helped Benetton win its first (and only) constructor championship. In his two first championship seasons, Schumacher won 17 races, achieved 21 podiums, and notched ten pole positions. During this span of 31 grands prix, only once did he qualify worse than fourth position.
In 1996, Michael signed a contract with Ferrari, which at the time was a highly risky move, given Ferrari's championship drought (the Italian-based giants had not won a title in well over a decade). After several rebuilding years, Schumacher helped Ferrari win the constructors title in 1999; however, his hope for another driver championship were dashed at that year's British Grand Prix, where he crashed heavily and broke his leg, causing him to miss six races. But Michael would re-claim personal glory once again in 2000, winning his third drivers title (and Ferrari's first since Jody Scheckter in 1979). During the next year (2001), while en route to his fourth drivers title, he broke Alain Prost's record for most grand prix wins. In a dominant 2002, he easily took his fifth drivers title (equalling the record set by Juan Manuel Fangio) due to his driving talent and the sheer dominance of his Ferrari machinery, which won 15 of the 17 races that season. In 2003, he broke Fangio's record by winning the drivers title for the sixth time in a closely-contested season (afterward making front-page headlines in the tabloid The Sun by trashing a hotel suite and madly piloting a forklift around the paddock). Schumacher started off the 2004 championship with typical domination, winning a record twelve of the first thirteen races of the season; he clinched the seventh drivers title of his unequalled F1 career where it all began for him: at the Belgian Grand Prix. He would finish the season with a record 148 points.
Since the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher has been widely regarded as the fastest driver in F1 and the most dominant driver of his era. However, Schumacher's driving tactics have been called into question by some observers who note that, in his early racing years, Schumacher had a tendency to crash into his rivals in championship-deciding races. Some (but by no means all) observers considered his crashes to be deliberate attempts on Michael's behalf to take rivals out of a race, which (if true) would be not only bad sportsmanship but also incredibly dangerous, given the fragile, super-fast open-wheel race cars. The two most-cited examples are the 1994 Australian Grand Prix (where a crash with Damon Hill in the last race of the year ensured Schumacher's first drivers championship), and the 1997 European Grand Prix (where a collision with eventual champion Jacques Villeneuve led to Schumacher's disqualification for dangerous driving). Schumacher's car was also disqualified at some races due to technical infringements of race rules. In more recent years, however, his success with Ferrari, moderation of his on-track tactics, and a more relaxed public persona have rehabilitated Schumacher's image for most fans.
Schumacher married Corinna (nee Betsch) in August 1995; they have two children together, daughter Gina-Maria (b. 1997) and son Mick (b. 1999), and they currently reside in Vufflens-le-Château, Switzerland near Lake Geneva. Michael's younger brother Ralf, six years his junior, is also an F1 driver. Michael's off-track interests include playing football (soccer), playing tennis, swimming, and skiing. His nicknames are the "Red Baron" and "Schumi".
In 2005, Schumacher donated more than 10m USD for charity to the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake in a charity show on the German television network ZDF. It was later announced that Schumacher's bodyguard, Burkhard Cramer, had died while on holiday in Phuket, Thailand and that his two sons were still missing.
after Brazilian Grand Prix
- Most championship titles: 7
- Most consecutive titles: 5
- Most fastest laps: 66
- Most races led: 124
- Most laps led: 4625
- Most wins: 83
- Most Triples: 19
- Most wins in a season: 13
- Most wins with the same team: 64 (Ferrari)
- Most wins from pole position: 37
- Most podiums: 137
- Most podiums in a season: 17
- Most podiums with the same team: 99 (Ferrari)
- Most poles with the same team: 53 (Ferrari)
- Most second places: 36
- Most championship points: 1,186
- Most points in a season: 148
- Most time between first and last wins (12 years, 1 month, 10 days)
Record to beat: Ayrton Senna's 65 pole positions (Schumacher currently has 63 poles).
In terms of percentages Schumacher still sits behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari. Fangio won 47% of the races he contested, Ascari won 41%. As of the end of 2004 Schumacher has won 39% of his races.
Fangio led 76.5% of the laps he drove and led 78% of the races he started. Schumacher has led 39% of his laps and 59% of his races.
Season by season results
after Brazilian Grand Prix
- 1991 - 0 wins, 4 points, finished 13th
- 1992 - 1 win, 53 points, finished 3rd
- 1993 - 1 win, 42 points, finished 4th
- 1994 - 8 wins, 92 points, World Champion
- 1995 - 9 wins, 102 points, World Champion
- 1996 - 3 wins, 59 points, finished 3rd
- 1997 - 5 wins, 78 points, disqualified (having finished 2nd)
- 1998 - 6 wins, 86 points, finished 2nd
- 1999 - 2 wins, 44 points, finished 5th
- 2000 - 9 wins, 108 points, World Champion
- 2001 - 9 wins, 123 points, World Champion
- 2002 - 11 wins, 144 points, World Champion
- 2003 - 6 wins, 93 points, World Champion
- 2004 - 13 wins, 148 points, World Champion