Teams Michael Schumacher
Races: 272Micheal Schumacher: 'I am not a legend.'By Jeremy McMullenPage: 1 2 next >>
Career Points: 1447
Michael Schumacher has often made such declarations, but his assertion that he is 'not a legend' couldn't be any more true. For the simple reality is this: his career has been anything but non-historical or unverifiable. His career, his achievements certainly are not mere myths or stories handed down by tradition. They are as real as the man himself. However, his career and achievements certainly do reserve him a place amongst the mythological, the fabled of Formula One World Championship history.
The real life story of Michael Schumacher begins in the town of Hurth-Hermulheim in the Rhein-Erft-Kreis district of Germany. The town, located just a little over 5 miles from the city of Cologne, features a number of lakes and large stretches of deeply-forested land and could be considered a veritable birthplace for grand prix stars. In 1928, the area would give birth to Wolfgang von Trips. A very picturesque town, Hurth would be the home of Rolf and Elisabeth Schumacher. In Hurth, Rolf and Elisabeth would give birth to Michael on the 3rd of January in 1969. A little over six years later, Rolf and Elisabeth would give birth to yet another future grand prix star Ralf.
Throughout his racing career, Michael was well known for his focus and hard work ethic. And while many would attribute that to his German nationality, a lot of that drive and ethic could be attributed to the example of his parents. Rolf had a very modest profession as a bricklayer. His mother would also take to working when Michael started seriously racing karts.
Needless to say, Michael's parents were unable to really pay and provide top notch karts for Michael. However, Rolf would do what he could do to encourage his son. It would all start out with a pedal kart that Rolf would modify by placing a small motorcycle engine on to power it for his then four year old son. This would lead to Michael becoming the youngest member of the karting club in nearby Kerpen.
The inability of his parents to fully pay for his racing interests would not make him bitter toward his parents. If anything, he only further cemented his insatiable thirst to be the best. He had no pride. He would end up scrounging around karting tracks looking for discarded tires and other parts that wealthier families would just leave behind. He and his father would then put together their kart made up of rejected parts and would go on to defeat the competition. In fact, at the age of just six years old, Michael would take his patchwork kart and would win his first club championship. The sad reality was there was only so much patching that can be done on a kart made up of discarded parts. And there were times that Michael's young racing career faced an early retirement due to insufficient means. But his talent and drive would always seem to attract the attention of those willing to help and Michael, and the history of Formula One World Championship racing, would be forever grateful.
As with just about everyone's life, whether great or small, there were a number of rather providential moments that would come to define Schumacher's racing career. There were those 'finds' at the karting tracks that would help him to continue to race and be successful. There were those local businessmen that paid for parts and necessary repairs. There would be those surrounding nations that had lower age minimums to get a karting license. And then were would be Willi Weber.
|By the late 1980s, Schumacher had already quit school and started work as a mechanic. He had already won the German Junior Kart Championship in 1982 and had gone on to win numerous other German and European kart championships. After joining Eurokart, he would add a couple more championships to his resume in 1985 and again in 1987.|
The success in karts set the stage for Schumacher to try his hand at slightly larger formulas. In 1988 he had participated in the German Formula Ford and Formula Konig series. He would go on to win the Konig series, which would attract the attention of Willi Weber.
Schumacher would sign with Weber for 1989 and would begin driving for the WTS Formula Three team. Showing his ability to continue to increase his ability with every increase in formula, Schumacher would win the German Formula 3 Championship in 1990. However, his next career move would be perhaps the most surprising move of his entire career.
In an era of Fangio, Ascari and Moss, it was not at all uncommon to see such talented drivers make the leap into many different forms of racing, especially sports car racing. Indeed, all three men had either taken part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans or some other kind of long distance sports car race. Even in the 1960s, it was not at all surprising to see Jim Clark take to the wheel of just about any racing car he could get his hand on. But toward the later part of the 1980s, and heading into the 1990s, most drivers maintained a singular focus. At Weber's advice, Schumacher would not. Weber's point with the suggestion of making the move to the Worlds Sports-Prototype Championship was two-fold. For one thing, driving prototypes would enable Michael to get used to driving powerful machines. Secondly, taking part in such races as the 24 Hours of Le Mans would cause Schumacher to get used to the media attention similar to that he would experience in Formula One were he to get there. A by-product of taking part in such long distance races was simple—focus and concentration. Therefore, toward the end of the 1990 season, Michael would join the Mercedes junior racing program.
Schumacher would be signed to Sauber-Mercedes late in 1990. He would have the opportunity to drive the Sauber-Mercedes C11 and would prove to be a quick study as he would go on to win the final race of the season in Mexico. Despite only taking part in the last three of nine rounds in the series, the victory in Mexico would help him to finish 5th in the championship.
1991 would see Michael back with the Sauber-Mercedes team. During that season, he would take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and would finish 5th with co-drivers Karl Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointner. Michael would go on to again win the season finale at the Autopolis in Japan during that year.
In addition to taking part in the World Sports-Prototype Championship, Schumacher would also take part in just one race of the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship where he would finish that one race in 2nd place.
All of this set the stage for the truly illustrious career that Michael would become idolized for. But it certainly would start out in one of the most unobtrusive ways.
In 1991, Eddie Jordan had entered Formula One. His green-livered, 7-Up sponsored machines were by no means tearing up the grid. At best, his cars were mid-pack runners during that season. But by the time the team headed to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix, Jordan had more serious problems than where his cars were running. One of Jordan's drivers, Bertrand Gachot had shown some promise but he also had a penchant for trouble. The man had co-driven with Johnny Herbert and Volker Weidler to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year for Mazda. However, by the Belgian Grand Prix, Gachot was busy sitting in prison. Gachot had been sentenced two months in prison for spraying CS gas on a London taxicab driver after there was an altercation. Therefore, Jordan needed another driver, but he wanted one that knew Spa well. Jordan was familiar with Schumacher and was interested in the young driver, but he didn't know what kind of experience he had around the 4 mile Spa circuit. By now, Weber was Schumacher's agent. He assured Jordan that his client had a good amount of experience with the Spa circuit. Weber's word was good enough for Jordan to negotiate with Mercedes for Schumacher's services.
The problem was, despite growing up not all that far from the Belgian border, Michael had only ever seen the Spa circuit. He had never actually been around it. Nonetheless, after a successful test at Silverstone where he thoroughly impressed Jordan's designer Gary Anderson, Schumacher would head to Spa with the team.
To gain valuable experience and to become intimate with the details of the Spa circuit Michael would take off on a lap around it. Known for his fitness levels throughout his career, Schumacher would make his first lap around the Spa circuit not in a car, but on a fold-up bicycle. It would certainly seem to work as he would take the number 32 Jordan-Ford and would qualify 7th for his first-ever World Championship race. Even then, his ability to put together a lap when it counted was quite evident. The performance would set the paddock abuzz with talk and would even have German journalist comparing Schumacher's talent with the great Stefan Bellof. Ironically, it was at Spa that the fast Bellof would lose his life.
What made Schumacher's performance in qualifying that much more stirring was the simple fact he had tied the team's best starting performance of the year in his first attempt and with very little overall experience, especially around the circuit. The other staggering point would be the number of places between himself on the grid and his vastly more experienced teammate Andrea de Cesaris. In reality, de Cesaris was to show Schumacher how to get along in Formula One. It was apparent, almost from the very start of practice, that it would end up being the other way around. Page: 1 2 next >>