Michael Schumacher’s career in video P1

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Michael Schumacher won his first championship for Benetton 16 years ago
Michael Schumacher won his first championship for Benetton 16 years ago

F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer returns with his latest driver career history.

We don’t need a FOTA survey to tell us Michael Schumacher is the number one star of Formula 1. It’s been that way for some time.

Our first driver video history of 2010 looks at the career of the most successful F1 driver of all time.

1983: Schumacher began karting with the help of his parents who worked at his local Kerpen kart circuit. He moved up the ranks quickly and was exposed to the demands of media work at an early age.

Here he is from those early days answering questions from a German reporter:

1990: The first glimpse the wider world had of Michael Schumacher was when he raced at the Macau F3 race that year. He was up against a British F3 driver – no other than Mika Hakkinen. Hakkinen didn’t need to pass Schumacher to take the overall win, but he wanted the clean sweep. It produced a result every bit as controversial as you’d expect:

1991: Schumacher took an unusual route to F1. Rather than trying out for Formula 3000 (which was the F1 feeder series at the time), he went to drive in the World Sportscar Championship in a Mercedes.

Along with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, they were being touted as the young guns that would lead Mercedes back to F1 and title glory. Here is an excerpt from their Le Mans race that year – also including a short interview with Michael.

Schumacher has more than one reason to thank Belgium. Not only is it the home of his favourite circuit – Spa-Francorchamps – but it was a Belgian that inadvertently gave Michael his first break in F1.

It was at this time that Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot was arrested following an altercation with a London cab driver. Much to the shock of his team boss Eddie Jordan, Gachot was convicted and sentenced to a short, but season-ending jail term. Jordan needed a replacement, and fast.

Enter Willi Weber, who pitched for Schumacher to get the seat, paying with Mercedes money. Asked if his young charge had ever been around at Spa, Weber said yes, neglecting to mention that it has been on a bicycle.

That wasn’t obvious during qualifying, though, where Schumacher qualified seventh, up with several more experienced and better-equipped drivers like Nelson Piquet and Jean Alesi. One of the reasons he made up so much time was the way he took the Blanchimont corner. He was the only driver on the grid at the time taking the fast left-hander without lifting.

But his first race brought him back down to earth with a thump. His clutch failed shortly after he left the line and his Jordan coasted to a halt a few hundred metres later. By the next race Flavio Briatore and Tom Walkinshaw had swooped to prise him away from the furious Jordan and install him at Benetton in place of Roberto Moreno.

1992: As Schumacher’s prominence grew, people began to talk of him challenging Ayrton Senna’s reign as the best driver on the F1 grid. When they collided in France that year, Senna gave Schumacher a piece of his mind:

One year after his debut at Spa, he came back to the Belgian circuit as a confident F1 front-runner. As luck would have it, a mistake by Schumacher in the race helped him to win it. He fell behind team mate Martin Brundle and Schumacher observed how worn his Brundle’s tyres were. He decided to switch from wets to slicks and, exhibiting his trademark move of sprinting while others were pitting, Schumacher took the lead and the win.

1993: His second full year in the sport netted him a second win, in Estoril. But overall, while his speed improved, his consistency dropped slightly that year. Just as well that he wasn’t contending for the title that season. Here’s an onboard video of Schumacher at Adelaide that year:

1994: With Senna moving to Williams, who had dominated the championship for the last two years, many thought that the championship was a foregone conclusion. Instead, Schumacher, who many thought would be a distant second, was a lot closer than many thought.

In what was probably the only real head-to-head between Schumacher and Senna for a race win, Schumacher passed Senna during the pit stops and won by a whole lap while Senna spun into retirement

But even at this first race of the season there were rumours that Schumacher’s Benetton had retained some of the driver aids that had been banned for 1994, such as traction control.

Although he won nine races that year (though he was stripped of one of them afterwards) it was one of the rounds he didn’t win that stands out as one of his greatest feats behind the wheel of an F1 car. Schumacher’s Benetton got stuck in fifth gear during the Spanish Grand Prix – but he still managed to drag it home in second despite even having to make a getaway from a pit stop in fifth.

Controversy marred his second half of 1994. While the FIA investigated Benetton for illegal software and fuel rig tampering, Schumacher received two-race ban for ignoring a black flag at Silverstone, and was disqualified from the results of the British round. He was stripped of his win in the Belgium Grand Prix for excessive plank wear.

With just one race to go, Schumacher’s 30-point lead had evaporated to one point ahead of Damon Hill. The championship was resolved in a notorious encounter at Adelaide.

Was it an honest mistake or a deliberate act? Everyone has an opinion on this:

1995: Schumacher and Hill’s battles continued the following year. Some did not end well, with DNFs for both in Silverstone and Monza. But some were absolute gems, like this classic battle from Spa. Remember that Schumacher was on slicks and Hill was on wets on a wet track.

Schumacher kept going, with another come-from-behind win at the Nurburgring. What made this battle interesting was that he was up against Jean Alesi, the man he was set to replace at Ferrari in 1996. Not that it made that much difference to Schumacher, who passed Alesi two laps after catching him.

As Schumacher left the team he’d made great, many were questioning why he’d move to Ferrari, who hadn’t won a championship since 1983. We’ll look at his Ferrari years in part two tomorrow.

49 comments on “Michael Schumacher’s career in video P1”

  1. Schumi_the_greatest
    24th March 2010, 8:32

    he actually finished 2nd at barcelona, otherwise great article!

    1. Sorry that was my fault – fixed it now.

  2. Is it just me or are there no video links in this article? I’ve had a problem with video’s here before, so it could just be me.

    1. Videos are there, so it may be your browser, GeeMac. :-/

    2. I have rather large white blank spaces, a pity as I really would like to see whatever happened between Senna and Schumacher.

      1. and having posted that they all decide to load, rather lucky but rather annoying at the same time…

  3. What amazing driver he is! At these times the drivers were real men fighting like gladiators. Today’s formula looks like kid playing video game. I think that schumi didn’t need to come back, he has nothing to prove to today’s kids wich are more mannequins than race pilots. The 80’s and 90’s formula was highend sport of human possibilities and schumi over-raced all the best of all times. It’s very pity that greedy managers took Formula 1 down to level of football in search of popularity.

    P.S. It’s great article! I look forward to tomorrow’s part 2

    1. Too much is too bad
      24th March 2010, 10:21

      too true in my view.

    2. He’s back because he wants to be back, not because he gives one itoa what you think or anyone else for that matter. Let the man live his dreams and do yourself something better and live yours. I find it a shame that people are giving him crap over just wanting to race again regardless of the outcome. He is a bigger man for not living in a legacy but rather living in the now. Good for him! Long live the King!

  4. Too much is too bad
    24th March 2010, 10:24

    Little correction: Mika Hakkinen was a British F3 champion & a citizen of Finland.

  5. He always seemed to thrive on being the underdog, and was equally at ease as the top dog.

    Thanks Journeyer

  6. Brilliant… just brilliant… especially the karting interview from 1983, thank you.

    1. Can I also add… I stumbled on this website a few months ago and every week I keep discovering more and more gems. From the technical analysis to the more novel articles it really is the most comprehensive website out there… so much so I’ve stopped checking the other ones… This article finally got me enough to comment and express my thanks… so thanks Keith!

      1. Thanks for the great feedback, Gty, although I wrote it (don’t worry about it). ;)

        1. Apologies Journeyer! Thanks to you too as well as Keith… as I am new are you a regular contributor to the site?

  7. Great post. That first video is scary, his face hasn’t changed one bit in 27 years!

    Some amazing drives by Michael I will always remember, can’t wait for the next part.

    1. Especially at 29 to 31 seconds, where he wipes his forehead with his right hand! It’s as if not a day has passed between then and now!

      1. Too true! The thing is, if you search YouTube for Ralf’s videos, you’ll probably noticed his look changed a lot more than Michael’s did. I guess it’s down to the genes. :)

        1. There’s a later interview German TV did in 1987 (88?) on Youtube, it had a teenage Michael when he was in F3 and a much younger (and rounder) Ralf running around in karts at the Kerpen track.

          Even then it showed the different mentality the brothers had to their racing…

      2. OMG!!! That is amazing, he has hardly changed at all

  8. That first video is hilarious, Schumi does not sound right with a child’s voice! Also interesting to note that Jaime Alguersuari was -7 years old when young Michael gave that interview…

    1. -7 years old?!? IIRC, he was born the year Michael started in F1 – or was it the year before?

      Either way, Jaime and Schumi on the same grid considering the age gap… that’s quite a thought right there. ;)

      1. No, it was the year before. I was born in 1990, and he’s only a couple of months older than me

  9. don’t the cars from the 90’s look great with the extra width

    1. That they do! And look how close they were able to follow each other!

  10. The karting-interview is really great, not only because of his voice. Let me give you a short translation: He tells the reporter that he will start not for Germany but for Luxembourg, because in Germany he would have had to take part in the expensive qualifiying. Whereas in Luxembourg he was the only starter and qualified anyway… Smart Michael.

    1. Ahhh, Schumi. Always thinking of ways to outsmart the rest. Nice to see he had that trait from the very smart. :D

      1. I think in those days, he only really had one sponsor, and he was too young to get a German karting licence (but not too young for a Luxembourg one) …

        1. @KNF
          You’re right, the age of Michael was another reason to start for Luxembourg in the years before. At the time of the interview he was old enough to get a german license. Anyway: he made it :)
          BTW: Starting for Luxembourg – it was a hot tip from his sponsor.

          @Journeyer Anytime.

    2. Oh, and thanks for the translation, Stefan! Much appreciated. :)

  11. Schumacher’s career in video”… so far”
    to quote the Simpsons Movie!

  12. Mouse_Nightshirt
    24th March 2010, 17:13

    I must say, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Adelaide ’94 had happened today?

    1. A few years ago Max Mosley said that if a driver deliberately crashed into a rival the same way Schumacher did they would be stripped of the championship:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/08/22/schumacher-would-have-lost-94-title-under-modern-rules/

      Of course saying that would happen is one thing, actually doing it is another.

  13. i think he only took 8 wins in 1994 – unless you’re counting spa as well (which would be odd, to say the least). he took 9 in 1995.

  14. I was 10 years old in 1994 and really wanted Damon hill to win the championship. I’m still gutted he didn’t. If only Damon had waited before attempting the overtake, or at least not indicated first. :-)

    1. theRoswellite
      24th March 2010, 20:08

      Damon didn’t attempt to overtake, he was on the track following a normal line. Michael came back onto the track in disregard of a car who should have had the right of way. (….and I was going to keep my mouth shut!)

      1. theRoswellite
        24th March 2010, 20:37

        …I should have kept my mouth shut…
        It would certainly be more correct to say that MS returned to the track and was going at a reduced speed. I believe that Christian is correct, Damon needed a few more feet, which would have given him unquestioned right of way into the corner.

        It is strange, I have seen this event in my head over and over since 1994, and I’ve made it Schumacher’s fault, increasingly with out doubt; but seeing the video, it is fairly clear that Damon is a definite “participant” in the shunt.

        I stand personally rebuked, and shall hence forward refrain from any castigating remarks directed in Mr. Schumachers direction. (…which is of course not to say he is an entirely innocent victim of this coming together)

        1. theRoswellite are you debating with yourself? :p Great comments though, particularly the last one.

        2. It would seem a fair debate no matter who you like. I do like Schumacher, but Hill was a great driver as well. From many many looks at the tape I would say that Michael had a right to his position, as did Hill. Now, Michael looks like he was looking in his mirror and I do feel that he must have taken, at least a little, advantage of the situation which does, in my mind, detract from the Championship for him. That being said, I would say it is 80% a racing situation with Michael knowingly playing the position to the best of his advantage.

          1. Hill should have waited a few corners – Schumacher’s car had been damaged in the initial impact and he would have been forced to retire anyway.

            At the time of the incident, although there were inevitably murmurings that Schumacher had committed a professional foul, he was given the benefit of the doubt in some quarters. In light of Jerez 1997 and Monaco 2006, of course, it started to look like the beginning of a pattern.

            The most charitable thing you can say about the end to the 1994 title fight is that Schumacher panicked – that it was a heat of the moment decision by a young man under extreme pressure, not a cold blooded pre-meditated plan.

          2. But Hill didn’t know that Schumacher’s car was damaged did he? As far as he knew Schumacher had just gone off the track and if Hill didn’t take the chance then he would stay stuck behind Schumacher.

  15. I miss those old F1 cars so much, and I didn’t even start watching until 1996!

  16. In my opinion, Michael is the greatest driver that I have ever seen. I think he will pull out a few wins this year.

    1. He had better be at least one of the greatest drivers of all time, else he would not have been given such kind judgements over his career. Again, he was a top 3 all time driver then, but tarnished himself only in the competitive drive in his veins that led to his ultimately poor ethical decisions on track. I can hardly blame him… I’m not sure I would be a kind driver at that level either =( Kindness kills careers.

  17. I actually find that 1994 Interlagos race hard to watch. I don’t get an emotional reaction from many things in F1, but I was really excited about that race, and in fact it was the last time we ever got to see Senna actually racing a Williams for any great length of time.

    Does anyone else feel the same way?

    1. Yeah I know what you mean. It feels a bit sinister looking back at the early races of 1994 because you know what was coming. I get a sense of foreboding from it. Especially so the opening laps at Imola that year, of course.

      I feel the same with other races that I saw which drivers were killed in – like Greg Moore in the CART race at Fontana, for example.

      1. Quite. 1994 was also a milestone season for me – it was the first time I’d really closely followed the off-season build-up, buying Autosport religously every week and eyeing up the car launches. I remember they gave away a series of artwork prints that year.

        It was also – for the same reason – the first time I tasted the cyclical nature of F1, in that a team that are firm favourites produce a package that – on paper – looks incredible, but in fact doesn’t quite work properly. As it came to pass from the first test of the FW16. I’ve learnt from that year that if a team is anything other than optimistic after a test, they are seldom where they expect to be. The competitive runs at Imola proved it, where Benetton were incredibly fast, and Autosport hinted that the paddock believed Williams to be sandbagging. They weren’t.

        A sad but unforgettable time for me, as a fan. That year had the best and worst of F1. The sheer shock of Ratzeberger, then Senna; and Damon Hill – almost impossibly – filling the void.

  18. spa 95 reminds me of Bahrain 2 weeks ago!

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