Michael Schumacher: Brilliant career dogged by controversy
Michael Schumacher was born on January 3, 1969 in Huerth-Hermuelheim, Germany
FIRST GRAND PRIX
Schumacher’s first grand prix was with Jordan in Belgium in 1991, as a stand-in for jailed Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot. Despite completing only 500 metres in the race, he made an immediate impression with a storming start. He was snapped up by Benetton after that debut, a move that provoked a bitter legal tussle, and scored points in only his second appearance with fifth place in Italy.
Mexico provided the first podium of Schumacher’s career, in 1992, and his first win followed later that year in Belgium.
Yet he had to wait until Monaco in 1994 for his first pole position. He won his first of seven titles later that year, going on to triumph in 1995 (also with Benetton), and 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (with Ferrari). He retired at the end of the 2006 season.
His career was dogged by controversy as well as highlighted by brilliance, the German colliding with Briton Damon Hill to win the 1994 title and trying to ram Canadian Jacques Villeneuve off the track in the 1997 decider.
During the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session Schumacher stopped his car towards the end of the circuit, partially blocking title rival Fernando Alonso, who was on a quick lap at the time. Schumacher was later demoted to the back of the grid for the race.
Schumacher is the only driver to win seven championships in Formula One and he owns many of the sport’s records. In 2002, he finished every race on the podium, winning the title with six races to spare – the fastest championship in Formula One.
In 2004, when Ferrari were dominant, he won a record 13 races in a single season and finished first in seven successive races, also a record for a single season.
Schumacher won an unprecedented 91 times, one fewer than the combined tally of the next two most successful drivers Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41).
RETURN TO FORMULA ONE
Schumacher agreed to come out of retirement in July 2009 as a replacement for Ferrari’s injured Brazilian Felipe Massa. The German was then forced to cancel due to a neck injury caused by a motorcycle accident in February.
However, he did not have to wait long for another opportunity and was back on the grid the following year after agreeing a three-year deal with Mercedes and once again linking up with famed engineer Ross Brawn.
There was no glorious return to the track though as the revered driver struggled in his first two seasons, finishing ninth and then eighth as compatriot Sebastian Vettel romped to back-to-back driver’s titles.
Schumacher scored his first podium since returning at the European Grand Prix where he finished third at the Valencia street circuit before taking part in his 300th Formula One race in Belgium in July.
He was ditched by Mercedes last year when the German team announced they had signed Briton Lewis Hamilton from McLaren to drive alongside Nico Rosberg for the 2013 season.
Rumours circulated that Schumacher could fill a vacant driver’s seat at Sauber in 2013, but he announced his retirement from the sport for a second time ahead of practice for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.
Younger sibling Ralf achieved a mere fraction of Michael’s success with six wins in a 10-year career at Jordan, Williams and Toyota. The two remain far and away the most successful brothers in Formula One, however.
Schumacher’s agent said on Sunday he was in “critical” condition with head injuries after an off-piste skiing accident in the French Alps resort of Meribel.
The 44-year-old German was in hospital in Grenoble, France, and under the care of Professor Gerard Saillant, a brain and spinal injury expert who is also president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) Institute.