Written by: Ryan
Edited by: Jagat
Visual by: Macy
Netflix recently released a documentary detailing the legendary life and career of Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher. This follows the first three seasons of Netflix’s series Drive to Survive, a critically acclaimed docu-series that offers a behind the scenes view of the Formula 1 (F1) races, and personifies the drivers in a way they have never been seen before. The show has been praised by many veteran F1 fans for the influx of new fans that it has brought to the sport. But for these new fans, Schumacher is just a legend, a collection of stories and memories that came to an untimely ending. So for fans who are new to the sport, who is the superstar that was Michael Schumacher?
Schumacher was born on January 3rd, 1969 in Hürth-Hermülheim, West Germany. His father ran a go-kart racing track and so Michael consequently took early interest in the sport. He won the Junior Karting Championships of Germany in 1984 and 1985, despite competing with sub-optimal karts and tires that had been pulled from the garbage. He eventually captured a European title in 1987. Still at the young age of 19, Schumacher moved on to Formula 3 racing, a sport that utilizes less powerful cars than its senior counterpart, Formula 1. Just two years later, he won the German Championship, and felt he was ready to move on to higher competition.
In 1991, Michael Schumacher initially signed with team Jordan Grand Prix, but after just one Grand Prix, he switched to Benetton, where he won his first two F1 World Championships. Despite being much younger than his peers, he already cemented himself as one of the sport’s greatest. The next season, Ferrari was searching for its next driver to carry on a legacy of greatness, and recruited Schumacher for the job.
For the first four seasons with Ferrari, a combination of setbacks held the young German from continuing his winning streak. Many thought that Ferrari’s cars were much slower and inadequate compared to the machines of McClaren and Williams, but Schumacher still persevered, achieving podium finishes in several races. He was known for his approachability among his crew. He was always involved in any changes that mechanics and technicians were making, and was friendly towards them as well. The German gained a reputation for his kindness and remembered the birthdays of his entire team. This outright devotion to improving himself and his car led to his eventual success.
In the years 2000 to 2004, Schumacher dominated the sport, winning five consecutive World Championships — he was clearly in his prime. Yet two years later, after a third and second place finish in the ‘05 and ‘06 seasons, he retired from the sport. At the time, he had shattered the previous record for Grand Prix victories, with 91 wins, but in 2009, he wasn’t satisfied and wanted to “see if he was fast enough.”
Schumacher signed with Mercedes for three years, and did not win a single race in this time. Although he finished eighth in two of the seasons, fans were disappointed to see their god of Formula 1 bleed. He conceded in 2012 before retiring from the sport.
He enjoyed his second retirement, and spent much of it with his family. He went skydiving with his two kids and went to parties with his wife. All of this, however, came to an abrupt end during a ski trip in 2013. Schumacher fell, cracked his helmet on a rock and was airlifted to the nearest hospital. He was put into a medically induced coma, and despite what is implied at the end of the documentary, Schumacher remains alive today.
The family has kept very quiet about Michael’s condition, and there have been mixed reports from medical staff that worked on him. All that F1 fans around the world can do now is hope that one day, they will see their hero alive and well again. Schumacher will undoubtedly be remembered as a highly controversial figure, for the contracts he broke, the collisions he was involved in, and his outward arrogance in refusing to admit his faults. However, no one can deny that his tireless work ethic, his trophy case,and collection of records speaks for itself. When asked about Schumacher’s impact on the sport, long time F1 fan and ISM student, Teo (11) said, “Because of his dedication to fitness…He was the one to really elevate the sport and made F1 drivers who they are today” articulating the lasting ripple that he had on the racing world, and even the drivers of today.