Six titles to his name but still with one goal in mind. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton will try to match the record of most titles in Formula 1, which is still in the hands of the most successful driver of all time: Michael Schumacher.
Too young to race
A karting license? Come back when you're 14. That's what a young Schumacher learned when he wanted to seriously train his racing talent at a young age in Germany. Instead, the youngster went to Luxembourg to get a license there; after all, it's allowed there from the age of 12.
Now licensed, the German won the German junior championship in 1982, and he kept winning all the way through his karting career. In 1988, he switched to single-seaters in the form of Formula Ford and ‘Formula König’. Schumacher won the latter in his first season.
A year later, he stepped up to Formula 3 with Willi Weber’s team (who would become his manager) as he ended third in the 1989 championship before winning the championship a year later. He had attracted attention from the F1 grid as Jordan snapped him up for 1991, replacing Bertrand Gachot.
‘Rainmaster’ tears to the top
Schumacher wouldn’t stay at Jordan for long, as he controversially moved to Benetton after just one Grand Prix in 1991. He had a much slower car than Williams, but Schumacher managed to put his Benetton just behind them: third place in the championship in 1992. During that season, not only did the German take his first podium in F1 (third place in the second race of the year), he also took his maiden win at his favourite circuit: Spa Francorchamps.
1993 was another season in which Williams dominated thanks to their infamous active suspension, but he would score his first title the year after in 1994. It was a tumultuous year, not only because of the death of Ayrton Senna, but also allegations of Benetton running illegal parts on the B194 (Senna was the first to publicly point this out).
Schumacher defended his title with Benetton in 1995. With a series of different teammates (including Jos Verstappen) next to him, winning the title was no problem, although the constructors’ title went to Williams.
The dominant years of Ferrari with Schumacher
Schumacher didn’t earn the nickname 'The Red Baron' for nothing. After taking his second title with Benetton, he moved to the then struggling Ferrari. The side from Maranello had been without a title for over 10 years, and it was up to Schumacher to end this winless streak.
With names like Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne on the team, Ferrari pushed hard to help the team back to the top in the early ‘90s. In 1996, Schumacher managed to push the team to P2 in the constructors’ championship and was on his way to compete for the title in 1997. Schumi could still claim the title until the very last race of the season, but after deliberately steering into title rival Jacques Villeneuve, Schumacher was disqualified from the championship.
It would take until 2000 before the Ferrari-Schumacher combination would win a championship, but from that season on, the titles didn’t stop coming. In the years before that, it was rival Mika Hakkinen who took the title twice, but it was Ferrari who dominated from the turn of the century.
Five seasons in a row Schumi managed to get the most points, before getting pipped by Renault and Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. 2006 would also be the last year in which Schumacher would drive in scarlet red: he went for an early retirement.
Return to the grid
With the return of Mercedes as a works team in 2010, it was also announced that Michael Schumacher would join the German team alongside compatriot Nico Rosberg to make it an all-German side.
Schumacher would just get one podium (and one sort-of-pole-position) during his second stint in Formula 1: a P3 at the 2012 European Grand Prix at Valencia. In that last year, Schumi admitted to reluctantly traveling to some races, making the news of a definitive retirement from F1 at the end of that year quite predictable.
Just one year into his retirement, disaster struck. Schumacher got involved in a skiing accident in the French Alps at the end of 2013. Since then, the seven-time world champion has been in a coma and his state has remained largely unknown.
Michael’s son Mick Schumacher is continuing his father's legacy as he will drive his second season in Formula 2 in 2020. Mick is already part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and could be on the F1 grid in the near future if he manages to succeed in F2.