Michael Schumacher, who made his F1 debut 15 years ago, has announced his retirement at the end of the 2006 Formula One season. Schumacher has been World Champion seven times and is still in the running for this season's title. With 90 victories and 7 World Championship titles, Schumacher will go down in history as the most succesful F1 driver ever.
Michael Schumacher was born on 3 January 1969 in Hurth-Hermulheim in Germany. As many F1 drivers, Schumacher's career started in karting. At the age of four and a half, he drove on the karting track in Kerpen with a homemade kart, built by his father Rolf. As in Germany you have to be 14 to obtain a kart license, Michael obtained a Luxembourg license at the age of 12. In 1983, when he was 14, Schumi obtained the German license and only one year after that he won the German Junior Kart Championship. After winning several European kart championships, Schumacher moved to the Formula Ford series in 1988.
In 1989, Schumacher signed with Willi Weber, whose team he would drive for from 1989 till 1990 in the Formula 3 Championship. In 1990, Schumacher won the title in this series. After this victory, Michael joined the Mercedes junior racing programme in the World Endurance Championship, winning the races in Mexico City and Autopolis.
The F1 wonderboy made his debut in the pinnacle of motor sports in 1991 at the Belgian Grand Prix with the Jordan-Ford Team. The German impressed everybody by qualifying seventh in his maiden Grand Prix, but during the first lap of the race, he had to retire due to clutch problems. After his debut race, Michael Schumacher was quickly signed by Benetton-Ford. In 1992, Schumi claimed his first Grand Prix victory at Belgium.
In 1994, Michael Schumacher became the first German to win the Formula One World Championship. Schumacher had a very strong start of the season as he won six of the first seven races. Damon Hill struggled to keep pace with Schumacher's Benetton, but thanks to several mid-season disqualifications and bans for Schumacher, the Briton closed the gap. Leading by a single point, Schumacher collided with Hill in the final race of the season in Australia. Because of this controversial incident, Schumacher took his first World Championship title.
The following year Schumi continued to race for the Benneton Team who now had switched to Renault engines. The German defended his title succesfully and together with team mate Johnny Herbert he took Benetton’s first victory in the Constructors' Championship.
In 1996, Michael signed a contract with Ferrari. In his second season for the Italian team, Schumacher battled for the title with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve. During the last race of the season at Jerez, Schumacher crashed into the Williams-Renault of Villeneuve. Schumacher was disqualified from the World Championship final classification, but his results and points were kept in the official records.
Schumacher helped Ferrari to win the Constructors' title in 1999 for the first time since 1979.
Michael won his third World Championship title as F1 entered the new milennium. Schumacher won five of the first eight races of the season, but suffered bad luck during some races, which allowed Mika Häkkinen to overtake the German in the championship standings. After an amazing win at the Italian Grand Prix, in front of the Tifosi, Schumacher equalled Ayrton Senna's record of 41 race wins. Again Schumi had to wait for the last race of the season to win the World Championship. In an exciting race with great pit work from the Scuderia, Schumacher came out of the pit lane ahead of Häkkinen to win the title.
In 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, Michael Schumacher and the Scuderia Ferrari were sovereign. In 2003, Schumacher broke Fangio's record by winning his sixth title and in 2004 he broke his own record of 11 wins in a season as he won 13 races that year.
During the 2005 season, the dominant Ferrari struggled all season long as the package was far from ideal. A new king in F1 stood up: Fernando Alonso. This season, both drivers spiced up the championship battle as after the Italian Grand Prix, and with only 3 races to go, the Ferrari boy is only 2 points behind the young gun of Renault. It promises to be a very exciting end of the season... and of the career of Michael Schumacher, who will be missed but never forgotten!
Michael in numbers
Most world titles: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Most consecutive titles: 5 (2000-2004)
Most wins: 90
Most wins in a single season: 13 (2004)
Most consecutive wins in single season: 7 (2004)
Most wins at the same race: 8 (French GP)
Most wins from pole: 40
Most wins with one team: 71
Most pole positions: 68
Most front-row starts: 114
Most second place finishes: 43
Most podium finishes: 153
Most championship points scored: 1.354
Most points in a single season: 148 (2004)
Most fastest laps: 75
Earliest title winner: 2002 (in July, with 6 races remaining)
Longest time with one team: 11 seasons (Ferrari – 1996-2006)