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Michael Schumacher Biography

Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Further Information


German race car driver

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher reigns in the elite, highly competitive, and glamorous world of Formula One (F1) auto racing. He has broken the world records for most wins and most championship points in F1, and tied the record for most wins in 2002 with his fifth championship title. Arguably the greatest F1 driver in history, Schumacher is also one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.

Schumacher was born January 3, 1969 in Hurth, Germany. His father Rolf managed a go-kart track there and "Schumey," as he is known, got his start driving go-karts at age four. Unlike many elite drivers, Schumacher did not come from a wealthy family to back his career. Instead, he capitalized on what he had—access to a track. The Schumacher's lived meagerly, and winter was the worst time for them—there was not a huge call for go-karts in the winter. When Schumacher hit his first major payday at age twentyone, he gave his father a suitcase of money. Despite his humble beginnings, Schumacher lives with his wife, Corinna, and their two children in Vufflens-le-Chateau, Switzerland. He earns roughly $80 million per year and travels to races in his private jet. Schumacher's younger brother, Ralf, is also an elite F1 driver for the Williams-BMW team.

Like many European racing drivers, Schumacher got his start on the go-kart circuits there. He was German junior go-kart champion in 1984 and European Kart champion in 1987. After graduating to the Formula Three (F3) league, he was German F3 champion in 1990. He got his first chance to race F1 that year as an alternate for the Jordan team. Jailed for punching a London cabbie, Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot was unable to make it to the track, and Schumacher filled in. Schumacher made his debut in the Belgium Grand Prix, qualifying in seventh position. After just one race and a legal battle, the Benetton team wrested Schumacher away from Jordan.

Schumacher won his first race back in Belgium, and finished third overall in his first year in F1, an amazing start for a rookie. He won the 1994 world championship by a single point after a controversial collision with Damon Hill in the final race. He took the title more legitimately in 1995. In 1996, he joined the Italian Ferrari team, which had not won a world championship in two decades.

Despite a season plagued by technical and dependability problems from the car, Schumacher managed to place third in the world championship in 1996. After battling for the 1997 championship with Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve, Schumacher was disqualified from second place for trying to run Villeneuve off the track. Schumacher returned the next year to finish second behind Finland's Mika Hakkinen and the highly competitive McLaren-Mercedes team.

A crash in 1999 at the British Grand Prix at Silver-stone, England almost took Schumacher out of racing. "You see the wall coming. You know the speed you do," he recalled online at CBSNews.com, "and you think, 'Oh, that's gonna hurt.'" And it did. A broken leg sidelined him for most of the season, and he considered retiring. Despite the crash, Schumacher finished the season in fifth place.

F1 is the most technically-advanced league in auto racing, with cars that are designed like jet planes and run in excess of 200 mph. Schumacher is the numberone driver and teammate Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello is number two on the most elite team in auto racing. Estimates of what Ferrari spends each year to race its two cars range between $170 and $285 million. In comparison, other teams on leagues such as NASCAR and Indy rarely spend more than $15 million per year, per car. Ferrari employs 550 people to work exclusively on the two cars.

Schumacher is known for his remarkably smooth driving style, his control on the track, and most notably his mastery of curves. "I have this natural ability of knowing how fast I can go into this corner, without going out too often," he said online at CBSNews.com. "It's an instinct." His biggest fear is driving under wet conditions, and he has twice crashed on a wet track, but he is known for excelling in the rain. He also is impeccably fit. He works out four hours per day before going to the test track to drive.

Schumacher made a strong debut in 2000, winning the first three races of the season. After a mid-season slump, he came back with an emotional win in Italy, Ferrari's home country, and seized his third world championship title. He was the first Ferrari driver in twenty-one years to claim the championship. He won the championship again in 2001, but with a more dominant season. He won nine out of the season's sixteen races, and broke a slough of records in the process. He broke the fifty-one career-win record held by Alain Prost, and tied late driver Graham Hill's record of five career wins at Monte Carlo.

After achieving almost every significant record in auto racing, Schumacher finished in first place for the world championship in 2002. He holds the records for fastest laps (51) and career points earned (945). He finished in the top three in every race of the 2002 season, another record. His fifth world-championship title tied him with five-time winner Juan Manuel Fangio. "I always say that statistics aren't my first priority," Schumacher is quoted as saying in Auto Racing Digest. "But it does mean something to me to have this number on my account. Actually, I'm delighted about this, but I will enjoy it much more when I'm retired and sitting on the sofa, having a cigar and a beer, and think about it."

Sketch by Brenna Sanchez

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