Michael Schumacher is a former racing driver who is most famous for being the greatest Formula One driver of all time, having become a champion for seven times in the history of the sport. Starting out as a karting racer, Michael has gone on to establish himself as one of the greatest racers of all time, setting records in Formula One that up to now have not yet been broken or exceeded by any other racer. As per the Formula One website, Michael is being hailed ‘statistically’ as the greatest driver the sport has ever seen.
And there are so many reasons why Michael would be called that. Throughout his career as a racing driver, Michael has received so many accolades that rightfully place him among the greatest athletes of the world. He has twice been named a Laureus World Sportsman, and has for several times been named as an international sports personality of the year by many governing bodies of racing. Michael is the only person who has won seven times in Formula One, and along with his brother Ralf became the only siblings to have won a Formula One event.
There is no surprise as to why Michael is so amazing and remarkable in his field—he simply loves what he does. For Michael, being in the front seat, behind the wheel of a race car, and anticipating the thrill that follows as he speeds along with the other racers on the track gives him such excitement that no other sport he has tried can equal. This, along with the eagerness to test and improve his limits has been the reason why Michael has put so much passion in driving, and in the process has become successful in what he does.
Michael says in an interview:
“To have a car in your hands, a team working with you with which you maximize your performance, and driving finally this car at the track, and just knowing and feeling that this is the maximum that you can achieve, that has been such a thrill for all those years. I always was hungry for this.”
A lot of Michael’s activities outside the track often make people think that he is a thrill-seeker: Michael does parachuting, motor biking and mountain climbing. Often, people tend to conclude that Michael loves the rush of adrenaline in his veins, but the reason he does these things is so much simpler and coincides with his philosophy in life—he simply does what he enjoys. For him, it is not so much the amount of excitement or risk factor, but rather the amount of pleasure that he gets when he does these things.
Michael explains this in an interview by saying:
“I believe in fate. I have always believed in fate. I do parachuting, I do the motorbike, I do climbing. I do all sorts of things that make me enjoy my time. In a way, it makes you think that I need the adrenaline. It’s not about the adrenaline. Because when I drive my motorbike I don’t have adrenaline. I just have pure pleasure and fun. The same with climbing. Parachuting, yes, it’s a little bit more adrenaline. But I have always been a little bit wild and crazy. And I can’t stop that from one day to the next, it’s not possible.”
One of Michael’s greatest strengths is his personal security, something that has kept him humble and focused throughout these years. He has never let his success go into his head, and as such prevented himself from thinking how he could be better than the rest. This is also one of the reasons why he had such great chemistry with his team when he was still in racing—he values each one of them, and appreciates the progress that each member brings to the team. This is exactly what Michael pointed out when he was interviewed on the subject of personnel issues:
“I don't want to talk about individual people. What's more important at the moment is not who is leaving or is being replaced, but who is joining the team, who will make us stronger. And that the problems we've detected are truly fixed. If we want progress, we need more people.”
Michael often takes time to explore new opportunities, but he also understands his limits and knows the areas where he should not delve into. The mistake often made by successful athletes, whether in driving or in other forms of sports, is entering the world of business with so little as their success and fame in the sport that they play. Michael, however, has been secure enough in himself to let other people who are better suited for the job take the position offered to him, thus avoiding such a failure.
Michael opens this issue in an interview:
“You have to stick to your real abilities. This is another point. I would not rate myself to be another Jean Todt. I probably wouldn’t have had these skills. I have different skills, certainly. And so does Stefano Domenicali [Ferrari's director, who took the job offered to Schumacher], doing it right now. He’s very different skilled, very intelligent, and he’s doing a fantastic job right now.”
Although Michael is retired from professional racing, he is not stagnant. He continues to develop new interests and opens himself to a wide range of activities that helps him enjoy life. For Michael, the learning never stops, and as long as he finds fascination in what he will be doing, he employs the same kind of passion in that activity. Michael says this in an interview:
“I enjoyed the school of racing that I went through with all the learning of the data, the acquisition, I really absorbed it, because it was so fascinating for me. And that’s what it is: whatever is fascinating, you don’t see it as a boring thing. You just like it and you just do it. So whatever it might be, I would be happy and open to learn for it.”
Racing legends often have very colorful backgrounds, and Michael Schumacher is not one to disappoint. He was born in 1969 in the town of Hurth at the North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany to parents Rolf and Elisabeth Schumacher. Rolf, who worked as bricklayer, was very fascinated with motor engines, and shared his passion with both of his children. Through his work, Rolf was able to provide a modest life for his family, and made sure that both him and Elisabeth showered Michael and his brother Ralf all the love that they can give.
Michael’s racing background can be dated way back to when he was three years old, when his father made him a pedal kart. At the age of four, Rolf modified Michael’s pedal kart and installed a small motorcycle engine to it, much to Michael’s amazement. The first time Michael stepped inside the newly modified kart, he became so excited that it changed him forever. Michael played with the kart every moment he could, and when he crashed the kart into a lamp post while the family was in Kerpen, Rolf saw Michael’s potential and introduced him to the Kerpen-Horrem karting track—Michael became very interested in what he saw, and at the age of four became the karting club’s youngest member.
Soon after, Rolf made Michael another kart out of discarded parts, and Michael spared no time in practicing and enjoying. Michael developed his driving skills along the way, so much so that when he was six years old, he won his first club championship. His parents, seeing the tremendous potential that Michael had, decided to support Michael’s passion for racing and thus did extra work for finances: Rolf took a second job repairing karts, while Elisabeth worked at the track’s canteen. Through hard work and effort, Rolf and Elisabeth eventually became managers of the Kerpen karting club.
There was one particular time when Michael needed a new engine for his kart, but his parents could not afford it because it cost far more than what they earned. Amazingly, local businessmen who saw Michael race stepped in to support him, and as such Michael was able to continue his passion.
Becoming a Popular Racer
At age twelve, Michael obtained a karting license in Luxembourg because German regulations only allowed teenagers fourteen and above to get a karting license. However, in 1983, Michael eventually got his German karting license and the following year, in 1984, won his first ever German Junior Kart Championship, which was truly an amazing feat considering Michael’s age. From that moment on, Michael began participating in numerous kart races not just in the country but even within the European continent, winning numerous events and establishing a name for himself.
In 1987, after winning both the German and European titles for kart racing, Michael decided to quit school so he can focus on racing, and started working as a car mechanic. From there on, Michael spent a great deal of his time practicing and improving his driving skills, and gained the confidence to join the Formula Ford and Formula Konig series in 1988, winning the latter event.
The following year, in 1989, Michael entered the professional world of racing and signed up with the WTS Formula Three team, managed by Willi Weber. When Michael participated in the Formula 3 series in 1990, he did so well that he won the title. Aside from that, when he competed in the World Sportscar Championship, he ranked fifth in the final in spite of only driving in three out of the nine races. Michael continued his successes with the following year’s Word Sportscar Championship, winning the final race in Japan.
Formula One: The Beginnings of a Twenty-Year Long Career
Many people, both fans and critics of Michael who followed his career journey, often said that Michael could be, in a sense, named as a prodigy of the sport because of how he quickly got into Formula One. In 1991, Michael entered Formula One as part of the Jordan-Ford team at that year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Even though he was there as a replacement for Bertrand Gachot, who was in prison, the fact that Michael, who was a newcomer was chosen is a feat in itself. Though he retired on the first lap due to issues with the clutch, Michael saw his debut as a magnificent challenge to rise to the top.
From 1992 to 1993, Michael spent a great deal of his time competing and improving his driving skills. Although he did not win any championships during this time (these years were dominated by names such as Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese), the highest ranking being third in the Belgian Grand Prix, Michael saw these years as opportunities in learning from the champions, looking at the areas he can improve and working on them. Michael’s passion and optimism enabled him to look beyond.
And Michael did not disappoint. In 1994, he finally won his first ever Driver’s Championship, in spite of several controversies during that season (one was the death of well-known drivers Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, and the other was the allegation that Michael’s Benneton team broke the F1 technical regulations). He also won the second place of the Spanish Grand Prix, dominating in six out of the seven races of the event.
1994 To 1995: Winning the World Championship
During the 1994 season, Michael had several issues with his team with regards to Benetton being accused of using electronic devices designed to ‘cheat’ in the race. Because of this, Michael received disqualifications for the British and Belgian Grand Prixes, wherein he was alleged to have driven a vehicle which had a form of ‘launch control’ that would enable him to make perfect starts, something that was definitely illegal in the regulations. These controversies were among the reasons why Michael later on left Benetton in search for a better team to join.
In 1995, Michael successfully defended his championship title, winning both the Driver’s Championship and Constructor’s Championship, and making him the youngest two-time Formula One champion in the history of the sport. It was during this time that he had several clashes with fellow racer and competitor Damon Hill, but he still went on to win the races.
Going with Ferrari
After two years of winning championships his career was being marred with controversies, Michael decided to leave Benetton and join the Ferrari team, which last won its championship way back in 1983. Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn, who were former employers of Benetton and were key in Michael’s success during his 1994 and 1995 championships, left to join Michael in Ferrari. This move not only strengthened Michael’s resolve in staying with Ferrari, but it also encouraged him from that moment on to build a team composed of experienced and winning people.
In 1996, Michael raced for the first time with Ferrari and landed second place in the Driver’s Championship and third in the Constructor’s Championship, placing his new team ahead Benetton. Winning three races in the year’s season, Michael brought a new era of potential championships for Ferrari as his three winnings were more than the team’s total tally for the last four years before Michael arrived. During the first few races of that year’s season, Michael suffered several setbacks due to engine trouble. However, Michael and his team took the opportunity to improve the engine design with the issues he faced.
The next two years (1997 and 1998) saw Michael rival with equally famous and skilled drivers Jacques Villeneuve (in 1997) and Mika Hakkinen (in 1998). In both these years Michael lost the championships to his opponents, but neither of his defeats caused to Michael to lose passion and interest in regaining the first place. Among the competitors that Michael had rivalries with, he held the greatest respect for Mika Hakkinen.
1999 to 2004: The Years of Success
Finally, in 1999, Michael won the Constructor’s Championship and gave Ferrari another title after fifteen years of staying in the sidelines. Throughout the year, there were rumors that circulated in Michael getting replaced by driver David Coulthard, and that Michael was being offered to join the McLaren team, but none of these rumors happened since Michael decided to stay with Ferrari and the team decided to keep him.
In 2000, Michael continued his winning streak and received his third world championship title after defeating fellow racer Mika Hakkinen. A year-long battle, Michael and Mika were both equally expected to win the championship, exchanging victories and defeats throughout the events they both participated in. It was also in this year that Michael broke Formula One’s record of the most race wins, winning more races than any other driver in the history of F1.
From 2001 to 2004, Michael scored victory after victory, catapulting his career sky-high. In 2001, he took home the Driver’s Championship and broke Alain Prost’s record for the most career wins. The following year, Michael successfully defended his title, dominating in almost every event that he joined in. And although there was some controversy during the Australian Grand Prix (his teammate Rubens Barrichello was ordered to slow down so that Michael could win the race, which caused an outrage in the stadium), Michael continued to show the world what a champion he truly was.
Michael continued defending the world title in 2003, with heavy competition from teams McLaren Mercedes and Williams BMW. His closest opponent during this season was Kimi Raikkonen, who in the initial stages of the season went sixteen points ahead of Michael. However, due to the victories that Michael scored in the following races, he successfully went ahead of Kimi and won the Driver’s Championship when he finished the Japanese Grand Prix. That same year, Michael was appointed as an Ambassador at Large for the Most Serene Republic of San Marino.
During the 2004 season, Michael broke the record number of finishes when he won twelve of the thirteen races and secured his seventh Driver’s Championship title at the Belgian Grand Prix. With this win, not only did he break every manner of record set in the history of Formula One, but Michael also broke his own records (he previously set), proving just how much improvement he has gained throughout the last four years.
Changes in the Sport and Michael’s First Retirement
Because of the changes made in the rules of the 2005 season, Michael encountered several difficulties in the next two years of his driving career. One of the rule changes, which required tires that would last an entire race (meaning that there was no time to stop for a change of tires), became a hard obstacle for Michael, whose team was using tires that had to be changed at one point of the race or another. During the San Marino Grand Prix, Michael stated:
“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.”
After the 2006 Formula One season, Michael announced his retirement from racing but stated that he would continue to work with Ferrari. In 2007, Michael was appointed as Ferrari’s head assistant and advisor, and worked with the team to improve their vehicles. Throughout 2008 and 2009, Michael and the Ferrari team worked on car development strategies that would help them make their cars better and more effective in winning races.
Final Comeback and Eventual Retirement
After a three-year period of retirement, Michael finally decided to come back to the sport that he loved when he announced his return to Formula One in 2010, but this time, he would be driving for the Mercedes team. Having been away from the wheel for three years, Michael encountered several issues with his driving style in this year’s season. In spite of these problems, Michael resolved to practice and improve his skills, not letting the disappointments keep him from doing what he loves to do.
In 2011, the improvements were shown by his performances at the Chinese, Spanish and Canadian Grand Prixes, when he landed fourth in the rankings. This year also marked the twentieth anniversary of his Formula One debut, which was held at the Belgian Grand Prix. Although he only finished eighth in the Driver’s Championship stats, Michael’s impressive performances made a promising comeback to his fans who were cheering for him to once again win the world championship.
2012 became Michael’s last career season, as by the end of the year he finally decided to retire from the sport. Though he encountered several issues with the early stages of the season, Michael went back up after setting the fastest lap at the Hockenheim Grand Prix. When Michael participated in the Belgian Grand Prix, he became the second Formula One driver to have raced in his three-hundredth Grand Prix. In September of that year, Mercedes announced that Michael would be succeeded by Lewis Hamilton from 2013 season onwards. A month later, Michael finally announced his retirement.
One of the main reasons why Michael retired from Formula One racing was to have more time for his family. Michael was married to Corinna Betsch in 1995. Corinna bore Michael two children: Gina Maria (born in 1997) and Mick (born in 1999). Many who are close to the Schumacher family know full well how Michael likes to keep his private life protected, and often dislikes celebrity spotlights.
When Michael was interviewed about the next biggest thing that he wanted to do, he simply answered:
“I said to myself that the day it will come—I knew that before—that when the day will come, I will stop. I don’t want to do something. I don’t want to be focused straightaway on a different project. I just want to be free and see what is the next thing that I want to do in my life. I’m available for the family when we have kids' holidays. I want to be home, simply, or traveling around with my family, and not being in some part of the world and not being at home—without having a fixed concept.”
Michael Schumacher’s Philanthropic Endeavors
Michael’s success in the racing world has not kept him from being a philanthropist in his own right. He has been a special ambassador to UNESCO since the early 2000s, and has since donated more than 1.5 million Euros for the efforts of the organization. Since his entry into the philanthropic world, Michael has been actively engaging himself in various projects for the masses; Michael paid for the construction of a school for poor children in Senegal, supported a hospital in Sarajevo, funded the ‘Palace for the Poor’ in Peru, and donated around five to ten million dollars for the William J. Clinton Presidential and Park.
Today, Michael continues to enjoy life with his family and friends. Although he is already retired from racing, Michael fills his time with other activities that would enable him to enjoy time with his family. Ultimately, this is why Michael does what he does: it is not about the amount of championships or awards, but rather the amount of pleasure and fulfilment that it brings. Like Michael, we each have the opportunity to succeed when we find what it is that we really love to do.
“Because I have my vision and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I don’t need examples, I don’t need directions or guidelines other than the ones that my family and I create.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Make Roads Safe
- FIA Foundation
- Make Cars Green
- Nazionale Piloti
- Red Cross
Awards and Achievements
- 1988: Won the Formula Konig Series Cup
- 1990: Won the German Formula Three Cup
- 1990: Won the Macau Grand Prix Cup
- 1992: Named as the Motorsports Personality of the Year by ADAC
- 1994: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 1995: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 1997: Received the Golden Lion Award
- 2000: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 2001: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 2001: Received the World Sport Award
- 2002: Named as a UNESCO Champion for Sport
- 2002: Received the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award
- 2002: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 2002: Named as the World Sports Personality of the Year
- 2003: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 2003: Conferred the title of Honorary Ambassador for the Republic of San Marino
- 2003: Named the European Sports Personality of the Year
- 2004: Received the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award
- 2004: Won the Formula 1 Cup
- 2004: Named as the Sports Personality of the Century by ZDF
- 2004: Named the World Sports Personality of the Year
- 2006: Awarded the FIA Gold Medal for Motor Sport
- 2007: Won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport
- 2007: Received the Prince Asturias Award for Sport
- 2010: Conferred the Title of Officier of Legion d’honneur by Francois Fillion, Prime Minister of France
- 2010: Named a GQ Sportsman of the Year
- 2012: Inducted into the Legend of Sports in Germany
- Holds the most number of F1 Championship Titles in the World
- Holds the most number of F1 Race Wins in the World
Sport-Magazine.co.uk (Michael Schumacher interview)
Zig Wheel (Interview: Michael Schumacher, Seven Times F1 World Champion)
SPIEGEL (SPIEGEL Interview with Michael Schumacher: "The Hunger is Back")
Wikipedia (Michael Schumacher)