Like many elite sportspeople who couldn’t resist another shot at the glory of bygone times, the return of Michael Schumacher never lived up to expectations. (Ricky Hatton, take note) Schumacher’s relative struggles since his return to the F1 paddock should not, however deflect attention away from a phenomenal career.
Praise for Schumacher has never been unanimous in the world of motor racing. The German’s fierce will to win has, in the past, landed him in controversial situations. This list of defining career moments is designed not only to commemorate the unprecedented seven time world champion but also to paint an honest picture of a man whose will to win came into direct conflict with notions of sportsmanship on more than one occasion.
1. 1994-Schumacher vs Hill
With Schumacher and Damon Hill battling it out for top dog honours in the 1994 F1 World Championship, the battle was set to conclude at the Australian Grand Prix with Schumi leading Hill by a single point going into the final race of the season.
After returning to the race following a collision with a safety wall, Schumacher in a heavily damaged car faced the prospect of Hill bearing down on his Benetton Ford. As Hill tried to overtake, Schumacher turned in, damaging both cars.
This manoeuvre forced both drivers into retiring from the race, thus handing Schumacher his inaugural Driving World Championship, albeit in controversial circumstances.
2. 1997-Schumacher vs Villeneuve
A mere three years and another world title later, Schumacher once again demonstrated a less than savoury side of his unadulterated desire to win.
Leading the Canadian, Jacques Villeneuve by a single point heading into the final race of the season, Schumacher again blurred the lines between competitiveness and irresponsible behaviour, side-swiping Villeneuve on lap 48. Unfortunately for the German, Villeuneuve managed to complete the race while Schumacher was forced to retire.
Subsequently Schumacher was disqualified from the entire 1997 campaign based on his indiscretions in Jerez.
3. 2001 – Michael and Ralf, Brothers in Arms
In 2001, en route to his fourth world title Schumacher made history claiming his 52nd victory in Formula One, surpassing the previous record set by Alain Prost.
A more interesting record was set, however, when Michael followed his brother Ralf home in the Canadian Grand Prix to become the first set of brothers to finish first and second in a Grand Prix.
4. 2002 – Record Breaking Brilliance
Driving for Ferrari in 2002, Schumacher displayed the sort of dominance that statistically at least gives credence to the notion that the German is the greatest F1 driver of all time.
Schumi and his team at Ferrari dominated both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in record breaking fashion. Breaking his own record, Schumacher won eleven times while finishing on the podium in every race of the season.
5. Taxi for Schumacher
After retiring for the first time at the end of the 2006 season, Schumacher refused to go quietly into the night, even in civilian life. Facing a 30km journey to an airstrip in Bavaria, Schumacher, unsure of his taxi driver’s abilities to make the flight on time, took matters into his own hands and put seven world title’s worth of experience into a mad-cap dash to make his plane.
Although Schumacher’s return never scaled the heights of his first spell in the sport, it would be reductive to simply forget about the sheer brilliance of the German in his pomp. As with any Formula One driver, he relied on the expertise of his backroom team of engineers and mechanics but the level of dominance displayed by Schumacher deserves recognition. While he will never experience the adulation afforded to Ayrton Senna, the German at his best was cool, clinical and above all possessed an all encompassing desire to win, sometimes to his own detriment.