Happy birthday Michael Schumacher! The seven-time Formula 1 world champion was born on this day in 1969, and his family have asked fans to celebrate his career and achievements to mark the occasion. At 3Legs4Wheels, we thought we’d do this by picking out some of his best and most memorable races.
His first win seems a good place to start, coming at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1992 at the same track he’d made his F1 debut the year before. At the 1991 edition of the race at Spa, Schumacher had to retire with a clutch problem on the opening lap, but it was a different story the following year. The German started the race behind Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna, but the Brazilian dropped down the order after trying to stay out on slicks in damp conditions. It was making the slicks work that handed Schumacher the win though, as he was amongst the first to switch back onto dry tyres as the rain stopped. Mansell was plagued by an engine issue in the final stages of the race, allowing Schumacher to cruise past for the win.
It’s seems fitting that rain played a part in the first win for the driver that went on to earn the nickname Regenmeister, or Rain Master. The race in which he was awarded that title also saw him take his first victory in the red of Ferrari – the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix. That season’s car was an underwhelming one from Ferrari, but the torrential conditions in Barcelona played into Schumacher’s hands, with a wet setup giving him the edge over his rivals. Just six drivers managed to keep their car on track long enough to see the chequered flag, but Schumacher looked in complete control of his car, finishing 45 seconds ahead of second-placed Jean Alesi with what is considered one of the greatest wet weather drives of all time. He took a similarly commanding victory in the rain at the Monaco Grand Prix the following year, continuing to prove his dominance over the rest of the grid in wet conditions.
Spa played host to six of Schumacher’s victories, more than any other driver at the Belgian Grand Prix. His second win at the track came in 1995, when his pursuit of victory saw him test the laws of the sport while battling with Damon Hill. Schumacher defended hard to keep the Brit behind him, eventually securing the win despite starting 16th on the grid. Hill wasn’t happy with some of the German’s blocking moves though, and Schumacher was given a suspended race ban for his antics.
One of the more difficult wins of Schumacher’s career came at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, the race which in which Ayrton Senna was killed. When the race restarted following Senna’s crash, Schumacher battled with Gerhard Berger for the lead, passing the Ferrari driver shortly before he was forced to retire from the race. The German admitted after the race that he couldn’t feel any satisfaction from the win, and called for F1 to learn from what had happened. For the drivers to return to the track and prepare to race knowing what had happened to one of their fellow drivers at one had already been a tragic weekend would have been unimaginably difficult, but Schumacher showed amazing focus to get the job done in the most difficult of circumstances.
Even when he wasn’t winning, Schumacher’s driving could still be astonishing. Although not one of his 91 wins, Schumacher’s performance at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix was remarkable, as the seven-time champion attempted to secure his eighth title and prevent Fernando Alonso from wrapping up his second. Needing a good result of his own and something to go wrong for the Spaniard, Schumacher was hindered after picking up a puncture, dropping to the back of the field while limping back to the pits. His recovery drive saw him climb back up to fourth, leaving him just behind Alonso in the championship, in what was meant to be his final race before retiring. While Schumacher never stepped on the top step after coming out of retirement in 2010, he did add one more podium to his collection, charging through the field at the 2012 European Grand Prix after starting 12th. After the race, the Mercedes driver admitted he felt “extra happy” after a pretty average couple of years by his standards.
The last win of his career came at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix, at a track where he had never previously won. It was raining heavily at the start of the race, but it was as the track started to dry that the regenmeister started to dominate, closing the gap to Alonso, who led the race. The Spaniard struggled to keep his Renault in the track in the drying conditions, giving Schumacher the advantage. Alonso finished the race strongly, but the Ferrari man had already opened up enough of a lead to secure race win 91. These are just some of Schumacher’s many brilliant, stunning and occasionally controversial performances. Let us know which Schumacher races are your favourites, or which ones stand out the most in the comments or via Facebook or Twitter.