When it comes to the world of Formula One, it can be argued that there is no driver more successful than Michael Schumacher. “Schumey,” as fans have come to call him, is a true racing legend. His is a record that no other driver in the past has ever surpassed and every driver today is still trying to defeat.
From the time that Schumacher first got behind the steering wheel of a Formula One car, he never looked back. Throughout his career in the sport, the German driver has managed to win the championship seven times, easily beating the record of fellow multiple time champion driver and Formula One legend Juan Manuel Fangio.
Because of his many victories, Schumacher also holds just about every scoring record in Formula One history. He dominated in several track records for years and continues to lead in total wins to this day. According to Motorsport, Schumacher also set the record for securing his title championship very early in the Formula One season. In fact, he happily secured his fifth championship title in 2002 with six races still left in the season.
Today’s Formula One drivers have a long road ahead if they wish to achieve the same career greatness and legendary status that Schumacher had. As they continue to try doing so, let’s take the time to check out 20 other fascinating facts behind the racing champion that is Schumey.
20 He won his first race when he was only six years old
You could say that Schumacher achieved racing success very early in life. After all, the racing legend won his first championship when he was only six years old. Back then, a young Schumacher could be seen lapping around the track on a pedal kart, according to Formula One.
Schumacher was exposed to the world of karting during childhood, as his parents worked at a local kart track in Kerpen, Germany. His father ran the track and his mother operated the canteen nearby.
After scoring his first championship, Schumacher’s parents wasted no time helping their son further his career in racing. Together, they arranged for a lucrative sponsorship for their son. This, in turn, marked the start of Schumacher’s successful ascent in the racing world.
19 He managed to obtain a driving license even when he was still below legal age
To be able to continue his karting success, Schumacher needed one more thing, (aside from his driving skills) and that was a karting license. Unfortunately, the rules in Germany were working against him. This is because according to mSchumacher.com, Germany regulations stated that the minimum age allowed to be granted such a license was 14.
At that time, Schumacher was still two years away from the minimum age requirement. To stop would have significantly interrupted his promising racing career. To get around the problem, Schumacher decided to head to Luxembourg and obtain his kart license, as the minimum age there was only 12. It's safe to say that he wasted no time getting back in his kart soon as his license was issued.
18 Even during his early years, he displayed impressive skills in driving through wet conditions
While most drivers failed to stay competitive when track conditions were wet, Schumacher was the complete opposite. He clearly showed that he was the master of wet conditions. In fact, he even earned the nicknames "Regenmeister" (rain master) or "Regenkonig" (rain king) from his fans, according to a report from Booms Beat.
Even when he was still driving karts, Schumacher showed amazing skills in wet driving conditions. According to his official website, Schumacher actually preferred to do his laps in the rain.
There was no one else on the track but him whenever it poured. Meanwhile, Schumacher also knew that in wet track conditions, the type of equipment on your kart doesn't really matter. Aside from that, Schumacher absolutely enjoyed sliding and drifting when the track was wet.
17 He was forced to withdraw from his first ever Formula One race
Schumacher made his Formula One debut back in 1991 during the Belgian Grand Prix while driving for the Jordan team. According to mSchumacher.com, he got a lucky break when driver Bertrand Gachot found himself in prison for spraying CS gas into a taxi driver’s face while in London.
During that weekend, Schumacher achieved some success by qualifying in seventh position. Come race day though, it became clear that his debut would be rather short-lived. In fact, Schumacher was forced to withdraw during the first lap because his Jordan-Ford car was suffering from problems with the clutch.
Nonetheless, not all was lost for Schumacher. According to his official website, contract negotiations between the Jordan and Benetton teams for Schumacher started the day after his race debut.
16 He dedicated his first championship title to Ayrton Sena
Not long after his Formula One debut in 1991, Schumacher showed that he was aiming for the World Championship title. According to the website Antiskola, Schumacher landed third and fourth in the World Championship in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Finally, in 1994, he achieved his very first World Championship title. He finished the season with 92 points, 10 podium positions, and eight grand prix wins, according to his official website.
That year also proved to be tough for the Formula One community. In fact, 1994 is best remembered as the year of tragedies. Drivers Roland Ratzenberger and Formula One legend Ayrton Senna both died in separate accidents at the Imola circuit. Following Senna’s death, Schumacher dedicated his championship to the late driver, saying Senna was “the man who deserved to get it.”
15 He had an intense rivalry with Jacques Villeneuve
From the beginning, Schumacher and Villeneuve had been complete opposites. Many saw Schumacher as a working-class hero. On the other hand, fans viewed Villeneuve as a privileged Swiss man who attended a fancy boarding school.
Schumacher and Villeneuve’s rivalry started in 1997 when the latter drove for Williams. Williams was struggling that season. Schumacher and his then team, Ferrari, eagerly took advantage. That was the start of an intense relationship between the two.
Years later, Villeneuve was still no Schumey fan. According to the Guardian, Villeneuve believed that Schumacher would never be like Senna, Nigel Mansell or Alain Prost. “He's (Schumacher) a racer - but a pure racer, nothing but a racer and, because of that, I think the day he hangs up his helmet people will just forget him,” Villeneuve remarked in a magazine interview.
14 Villeneuve led to Schumacher being disqualified from a race
You could say that Schumacher was quite a controversial driver. Sure, he was impressive on track, but he was also sometimes questioned for his professional ethics, according to Formula One.
Case in point was an infamous incident with Villeneuve that occurred during a race in Jerez, Spain back in 1997. It was the final race of the season and Villeneuve was Schumacher’s primary title rival. Schumacher was aware that he only held a one-point advantage over Villeneuve. If he could cross the finish line before his rival, he could get his third World Championship and first with Ferrari.
On lap 48 of the race, Schumacher reportedly hit Villeneuve's car as he passed. Because of this, Schumacher was disqualified from the Driver’s Championship. According to his official website, Schumacher regrets this incident more than almost any other he's made.
13 He beat Alain Prost’s record in 2001
Despite the controversy of 1997, Schumacher proved he could bounce back and, more importantly, keep winning races. He had finally managed to win his third World Championship (and first with Ferrari) just a year earlier.
In 2001, Schumacher almost easily won his fourth World Championship. In fact, according to his official website, he managed to defend his title as early as the Budapest Grand Prix with four more races to go in the season.
2001 was also the year that Schumacher beat Alain Prost’s record of 51 grand prix wins. At the race in Budapest, he equaled Prost’s record. During the next race at Spa-Francorchamps, Schumacher proceeded to set a new record for the highest number of victories in Formula One.
12 He helped invent a lightweight, ultra-strong helmet
It was not just racing and winning continuously that Schumacher was concerned about. In fact, he also very much cared for racing safety. This is perhaps what prompted him to help invent an impressive race helmet with German safety helmet company Schubert, the same company that supplies helmets to Formula One drivers.
According to Ride Apart, Schumacher and the Schubert team developed a helmet known as the RF 1.5 back in 2004. You could say that this helmet had it all, offering an impressive level of cooling while maintaining good aerodynamic stability. It was also lightweight, so it didn’t weight much on the head. Aside from this, it was also known to be incredibly tough. In fact, the helmet reportedly remained intact even after a battle tank ran over it.
11 He set another record in 2004
2004 was quite a special year for Schumacher, having successfully secured his fifth consecutive title and seventh World Championship. This was a remarkable feat for any Formula One driver indeed. According to his official website, the legendary driver had achieved eight pole positions, 10 fastest laps, 15 podium positions, and 13 grand prix wins during the season.
This gave him a total of 148 points, putting him well ahead of even his closest rivals.
Ironically, the race that saw him secure the season’s title did not result in victory. During the race at Spa-Francorchamps, Schumacher found himself being held back by driver Kimi Räikkönen. He finished second in the race and later remarked, “You can’t always be the winner, but in my eyes, I also emerged a winner today by taking the world championship.”
10 His Brother Is Also A Race Car Driver
What many may not realize about Schumacher is that he has a younger brother named Ralf who also competed in Formula One at some point. However, the younger Schumacher’s racing career paled in comparison to Schumey's.
The younger Schumacher made his debut in Formula One back in 1997. According to a report from Race Department, Ralf had a hard time controlling his speed in certain race conditions. This resulted in some unnecessary incidents.
Nonetheless, Ralf displayed impressive racing abilities. In fact, according to the Atlas Formula One Journal, he managed to finish in third place during the Argentina grand prix in 1997, his third ever race in Formula One. Over the years though, it became clear that Ralf was no Michael.
9 He has earned the nickname “The Red Baron”
Because of everything that Schumacher has achieved in Formula One, the legendary driver was eventually given the title “The Red Baron” by his fans.
Originally, the title belonged to a man by the name of Manfred von Richthofen, according to the History Channel. Richthofen was a fighter pilot for Germany during World War One.
His name never failed to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the Allied Forces' airmen. He was reportedly notorious for having the most kills from the sky, having shot down as many as 80 enemy aircraft during the war.
On the other hand, Schumacher was notorious for scoring victories on the track almost effortlessly. Perhaps this is why fans thought the nickname suited him best.
8 Schumacher was involved in other sports
Despite Schumacher’s devotion to Formula One racing, the legendary driver still took the time to pursue other passions, or more specifically, other sports.
In fact, Schumacher was often seen on the football field, as according to a report from The Guardian back in 2014, he organized and participated in charity games. Aside from this, Schumacher was also no stranger to motorbike racing.
According to a report from Motorcycle News, the Formula One world champion managed to complete 28 laps on a Ducati MotoGP bike in 2007 and did so at an impressive pace.
Meanwhile, Schumacher was also known to be into horse riding, scuba diving, skiing and skydiving, according to a report from DW.
7 He was once voted the most popular Formula One driver
According to Booms Beat, Schumacher was named the most popular Formula One driver back in 2006. After all, with his recent successes in the sport, everyone who watched Formula One knew his name.
He was so popular that many young Germans reportedly saw Schumey as a role model. It’s even possible that he inspired a lot of young men to become race car drivers when they got older.
Schumacher’s 2006 record in Formula One was quite impressive. That year, he managed to secure four pole positions, seven fastest laps, 12 podium positions and seven grand prix wins. This helped him achieve as many as 121 total points by the end of the season.
6 He retired from Formula One for the first time in 2006
It’s safe to say that 2006 was also a bittersweet year for a lot of Formula One fans, especially Ferrari fans. That year, Schumacher decided to retire from the sport at the end of the season.
According to his official website, Schumacher made the announcement during a post-race press conference after he won his sixth grand prix of the season in Italy. “I have told the team of my decision to retire at the end of this year,” he remarked.
Schumacher knew that race car driving required a significant amount of energy, motivation, and strength. He didn’t think he could keep all of it up for much longer. “Of course, I’m still physically fit and of course I’m still competitive now, but what about the next few years?”
5 Following retirement, he still worked with Ferrari
Although Schumacher had chosen to leave the Ferrari cockpit, it did not mean that he would be leaving the world of Formula One altogether. In fact, Schumacher continued to work for his beloved team long after he decided to hang up his racing helmet.
He was given the special role of a Ferrari consultant and he took this new job seriously. In fact, many Formula One fans may recall seeing the racing legend in the Ferrari paddocks throughout the racing season.
Wearing the team’s headset, he would listen intently to everything going on at the track, whether it was practice day, qualifying day or race day itself. Schumacher proudly served Ferrari in this capacity for the next three years.
4 His return to Racing wasn't overly successful
After three years of serving Ferrari as a consultant, something changed in Schumacher. All of a sudden, he wanted to get back inside a Formula One car and drive it to its maximum potential.
This decision may have been motivated by a desire to work with technical director Ross Brawn once again. Brawn was a former Ferrari boss who had made a move to the Mercedes GP Petronas team. Just before 2010, it was announced that the racing legend had signed on for a three-year contract with the same team.
Unfortunately, Schumacher’s comeback was not as successful as his Ferrari days. According to Formula One, the racing legend only managed to score a single podium finish during the three years that he was with the team. Schumacher retired from Formula One for good after the 2012 season.
3 His two children are as competitive as he is
Over the years it became clear that Schumacher was not the only competitive person in his family. In fact, his two children have also made a name for themselves in the sports industry in recent years.
His daughter, Gina-Maria, has displayed impressive horse-riding skills. In fact, in August of 2017, the legendary driver’s daughter competed at the FEI World Reining Championships in Switzerland where she took home the gold medal. According to a report from the Daily Mail, Gina also continued to compete later that year at the NRHA European Derby in Lyon, France.
Meanwhile, Schumacher’s son Mick seems to be following his father’s footsteps in the motorsport world. He is currently driving in the European Formula Three championship for Prema Powerteam, according to Autosport.
2 He has undergone two major life-saving operations
In 2013, Schumacher suffered a devastating accident after sustaining severe head trauma while skiing at a French Alps resort. According to a report from France 24, the former Ferrari driver hit one of the exposed rocks in the area and subsequently lost control of his trajectory. At the same time, the safety releases on Schumacher’s ski’s reportedly failed to deploy when he hit the rocks.
Upon landing, it is believed that the right side of Schumacher’s head landed on another rock. His helmet was also shattered on impact and the Formula One legend was bleeding profusely from the head. Schumacher was rushed to a hospital in Grenoble. He underwent two major operations and was placed in a medically induced coma soon after, according to a report from CNN.
1 F1 stars believe that Schumacher will recover
Over the years since Schumacher’s horrific skiing accident, his manager Sabine Kehm and his family have been rather tight-lipped about any developments surrounding the racing legend’s health. Nonetheless, this has not stopped some Formula One stars from speaking up and expressing optimism about Schumacher’s future. In fact, some have even said that the seven-time Formula One champion should be able to recover from his condition.
For starters, Formula One champion and former Schumacher rival Fernando Alonso is staying optimistic that Schumacher will recover because Schumacher has “extraordinary resolve,” according to a report from Express. Meanwhile, Formula One legend Niki Lauda is also holding out hope that Schumacher would recover from his unfortunate accident, according to a report from Mirror.
Sources: www.motorsport.com, www.formula1.com, www.mschumacher.com