Team: Mercedes AMG World Champ Titles: 7 GP wins: 91 Pole positions: 68
This is a man that does not need to be introduced. Even those who do not know anything about Formula One recall the name Schumacher. “Is he still racing?” they ask casually, and upon hearing the answer they say surprised: “Really?”
It is indeed impressive, that this brightest star of contemporary racing is still in the sport, for the last 21 years, with an only a 3 year break in between. Within this time he has competed against former and rising stars of the sport, including his countryman and two-time Champ Sebastian Vettel, and the Brazilian legend considered the number one driver in F1 history, Ayrton Senna.
What is more impressive is that for most of that time he had been constantly delivering; pronounced “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen” by the Official Formula 1 Website, he is a numerous record breaker with the most championships run, Grand Prix won, fastest laps, pole positions, points scored, races won in a single season (13 in 2004) on top of becoming the only driver in history to finish on podium in every year of the season in 2002 – a goal that Sebastian Vettel was close to achieving in 2011 but which could only be a wild dream of any of the competitors this season.
As faithful as he’s been to the sport he has also been to his teams. After an instantaneous transfer to Benetton from Eddie Jordan’s baby – Jordan-Ford team – after his first ever race (and the stunning debut that saw him qualify in 7. in the Belgian Grand Prix), he drove for the team for five years, having won with them two titles; he then moved to Ferrari in 1996 where in the ten years of their partnership he won five Championships. After his decision to leave the sport in 2006 he still stayed with the team as an advisor.
And when he made a comeback, he re-entered the sport at the roots of his career – as part of Mercedes, who he had joined as a junior driver in the World Sports-Prototype Championship in 1990, then driving in Sauber-Mercedes and Sauber-Mercedes-Benz on a rolling contract with the German team for a few years to follow. Working for the team that had not participated in F1 races for over half the century was a long-held ambition for Michael; however, the return to the sport was not as glorious as he might have hoped for. This seasons’ third place finish in Valencia was his best result so far, and although it was a huge success, considering his four retirements in previous seven races before the European GP, it was far from satisfying for a Champions’ ambitions.
An unquestionable authority, Michael is quite outspoken when it comes to criticising any proposed regulation changes or nuances in the sport, such as a ban on tyre-warmers or the work of the new tyre supplier in general. He has so far only appreciated the Pirelli compound during practice and qualifying in Silverstone in the wet conditions that left his competitors crying out for suspending the sessions and which he had mastered in his early career to the extent that had granted him the title The Rain Master or The Rain King.
A spokesman for drivers safety, ironically he has been the one to cause some dangerous situations, mainly related to him defending position, like in the case of Hungarian Grand Prix in 2010 when he saw the threat of Rubens Barrichello or during the 1996 Canadian GP when his exit from the pit-lane forced Heinz-Harald Frentzen off the track and into retirement . Also twice in his career he was involved in an accident in the final stages of the Championship, when his collisions – first with Damon Hill in 1994, then with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 – ended the race for him, but with different outcomes: granting him a World Title and disqualifying him from the whole season accordingly.
With all this in mind, it is no surprise that Schuey is the most recognisable F1 personality today; but will his fighter attitude be enough to keep him pushing for another record title in his biography, despite the lack of satisfying results? With the three-year contract finishing with the end of the season, Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, has said recently that it is down to Michael to decide whether he wants to stay with the team, where – Brawn stressed – he was more than welcome. Would the German star prefer to make a move elsewhere? If so, chances for that are rather narrow: although Ferrari, his team of ten years for whom he won their first Constructors Championship since 1983, might have a place to fill if Felippe Massa does not pull his weight in the second half of the season – and the team had previously asked their Champ to cover for the injured Brazilian in 2009, which Michael claims to have been the spark to his further aspirations in the sport – there has been no indication they would be extending the invitation again. And considering the German’s and Fernando Alonso’s fiery relationship in the past (the best example was the Monaco Grand Prix 2006 when Michael deliberately smashed his car to disable the Spaniard from taking pole) – this would have not been a match made in heaven.
So, for the curious fans, and the less curious general public, it is a question of time to find out whether the Boots-maker will continue to add titles to his career. The mid-season break, preceded more importantly by a home performance and the voice of the Hockenheim public, might provide some answers as to whether the German driver will continue to make Formula One history – once more.