OF ALL the motoring-related anniversaries that will be taking place in 2019, today’s will probably be the most poignant for many people: the 50th birthday of the Formula One legend Michael Schumacher.
As well as being Formula One’s most successful driver, Schumacher has also been in the thoughts of many F1 fans following a skiing accident in December 2013, in which the seven-time champion suffered serious head injuries.
Details on Schumi’s condition have been closely guarded, with official updates few and far between. A family statement released on January 2, 2019, read: “You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him.”
Yesterday, a photo of Schumacher with his wife Corinna appeared on the former racer’s Twitter account, thanking fans for celebrating Michael’s 50th birthday and highlighting a new exhibition of his career, as well as a new mobile app that allows followers to review his on-track achievements.
1/5 Statement von Michaels Familie: Wir freuen uns darüber und möchten uns von Herzen bedanken dafür, dass ihr Michaels 50. Geburtstag morgen gemeinsam mit ihm und mit uns feiert. Um ihm, uns und euch ein Geschenk zu machen, hat @keepfighting ein virtuelles Museum geschaffen. pic.twitter.com/CnBFIGhBYc
— Michael Schumacher (@schumacher) January 2, 2019
As our own tribute to Michael Schumacher on his 50th birthday, we’ve looked back at the 91 victories in his Formula One career and picked out the five wins that we believe best showcase just how phenomenal a driver he was.
1996 Spanish Grand Prix
By 1996, Schumacher was already one of F1’s most successful drivers, with 19 GP wins and two Drivers’ Championship titles. It was that year’s sodden Spanish Grand Prix, however, that helped establish him as one of the sport’s all-time greats. Despite driving an uncompetitive Ferrari, Schumacher would finish the race with a 45 second lead over the runner-up and providing a hint at what we could expect from F1’s “Red Baron”.
1997 Belgian Grand Prix
Further cementing Schumacher’s status as the “Regenmeister” (Rain Master) was the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix. After picking off the cars ahead in quick succession early on, he would hammer home his pace advantage with a lead of a minute after just nine laps out front. Even after easing off when victory was guaranteed, Schumacher would still cross the finish line some 27 seconds ahead of the driver in second place.
1998 Hungarian Grand Prix
In stark contrast, Schumacher had to give everything he had and more to win at Hungary in 1998. To combat the two-stopping pair of McLarens that were waltzing away out front, Ferrari’s strategists devised a daring three-stop plan that, in order to work, meant Schumacher had to build a lead of 25 seconds in just 19 laps. He managed it, with the result being perhaps one of the most impressive victories in F1 history.
2004 French Grand Prix
Though Schumacher utterly dominated the 2004 championship, there were times that year when even he was on the back foot. For example, at the French Grand Prix it seemed Renault had a home win in the bag after locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying, with its young star Fernando Alonso starting from pole position. In a scenario not too dissimilar to Schumacher’s Hungary 1998 success, a combination of a canny pit strategy and incredible pace resulted in a victory as impressive as it was unexpected.
2006 Chinese Grand Prix
It’s perhaps fitting that Michael Schumacher’s final F1 victory also ended up being one of his very best. After seemingly having no answer to the speed of Fernando Alonso in rainy conditions, Schumacher began closing the gap to the front as the track began drying out, before taking the lead with 14 laps to go. Seemingly unfazed by the later ballistic pace of a resurgent Alonso, Schumacher would cross the finish line three seconds ahead of his rival from Renault.