|First race||Belgian Grand Prix||Spa||August 25, 1991||Race results|
|Last race||Brazilian Grand Prix||Interlagos||November 25, 2012||Race results|
His insatiable desire for success took him to seven world titles before he retired as a household name in 2006. He is by far and away the most successful driver of all time, but remarkably that wasn't enough for him and in 2010 he decided to return to Formula One to try - and ultimately fail - to add to his catalogue of records.
His domination of the sport in the 2000s was remarkable. His natural ability, sheer determination and political nous proved to be the perfect combination for success in F1. When teamed up with Jean Todt and Ross Brawn at Ferrari these factors led to five consecutive titles from 2000 to 2004, an unprecedented achievement in the sport.
At times he has been accused of overstepping the line between being competitive and cheating. In 1994 he caused uproar when he took his first championship in a tight title showdown with Damon Hill in Australia. Hill was faster and looked set to clinch the title if he could pass on track, but as the Williams driver made his move, Schumacher caused an accident that forced them both to retire. In doing so he ensured he won the championship and even stood waiting at the side of the track to make sure Hill didn't come round again. There was more controversy in 1997 when Schumacher, fighting for the title with Jacques Villeneuve, pulled a similar stunt. This time, however, it didn't pay off and Villeneuve took the title while Schumacher was stripped of his runner-up spot.
His talent was first spotted by his long-term manager Willi Weber while racing in karts. Weber guided him to the German Formula 3 championship in 1990 and then to success in sportscars with Mercedes and F3000 in 1991. In the same year Eddie Jordan gave him his first drive in F1 at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The opportunity came about when Jordan's regular driver Bertrand Gachot was jailed for spraying CS gas in a London taxi driver's face. Schumacher, backed by Mercedes money, seized the chance and he qualified in an impressive seventh place on his first attempt. Unfortunately his start was a little bit too enthusiastic and he burnt the clutch, forcing him into retirement. Nevertheless, he had impressed the right people and was instantly signed up by Flavio Briatore to drive for Benetton for the rest of the season, much to Jordan's dismay.
His first win came a year later, and by 1994 he was world champion. In 1995 he made it back-to-back titles, beating Hill again but this time without the controversy. For 1996 he moved to Ferrari and, alongside Todt, began building the team that would eventually dominate the sport. He started reaping the rewards in 2000 when he took his first title with the Italian marque. It could have come a year earlier, but he was ruled out of half of the 1999 season when he crashed at Silverstone and broke his leg.
Championships followed in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 as he went from strength to strength and took a record 13 wins in the '04 season. 2005 then proved difficult, as Ferrari's tyre supplier Bridgestone struggled with new regulations. He still finished third in the championship but his only win came at Indianapolis when the 14 Michelin runners were prevented from racing due to safety concerns. In 2006 he came close to the title but was beaten by Fernando Alonso and Renault. He had proved he was still competitive, but with Kimi Raikkonen contracted to come to Ferrari in 2007, he decided to quit while he was ahead and held an emotional press conference at Monza to announce his retirement.
He became a trackside consultant at Ferrari the next year and started racing motorbikes as a hobby. However, after several accidents and few successes he jumped at the opportunity to return to F1 with Ferrari in 2009 to replace the injured Felipe Massa. Unfortunately one of his motorbike accidents proved more serious than first thought and doctors warned him against making a return.
But the desire to race was still there and in late 2009 a deal was signed with Mercedes for a return in 2010. On the evidence of his first year it looked as though it was a mistake, as he was outperformed by team-mate Nico Rosberg and never looked like a contender for the podium, let alone a win. In 2011 new tyres and a fresh start with a new car promised to solve his problems, but although Schumacher was more competitive he still failed to return to the podium.
The final year of his contract delivered the most competitive car, with Mercedes locking out the front row in China but it was team-mate Rosberg who took the win as Schumacher retired. Retirements were all too common - either through mechanical failure or driver error - and despite the highlights of a pole in Monaco (before a grid penalty) and a podium in Valencia, Schumacher announced he would retire for a second time at the end of 2012 after it was confirmed Lewis Hamilton would replace him in 2013.
He remains by far the most decorated driver of all time, but his return was not the success he had hoped for and his final three seasons in the sport all saw Sebastian Vettel take the title as he threatened to build his own dynasty at Red Bull to rival Schumacher's at Ferrari.
Strengths and weaknesses
From 1991 to 2006 he was close to being the complete package as a racing driver, but his burning desire to win also led him astray. In 2006 he caused controversy when he blocked the track at Monaco during a qualifying session in order to try and take pole. In 2010 he also came under fire when he squeezed ex-Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello against the Hungaroring pit wall at 180mph
Winning his seventh title in 2004 in very dominant fashion
Being stripped of his second place in 1997 when the FIA accused him of trying to crash into Villeneuve at the final round
"I can't really imagine life without Formula One"
Schumacher on his approach to F1: "You know the song My Way? I think that fits how I feel"
He turned down the opportunity to play football in the UEFA Champions League, having been offered the chance to play for San Marino champions SS Murata in the opening round of the 2008 competition
Schumacher still faces 'hard fight' one year on (December 29, 2014)
Schumacher website to be reactivated (November 12, 2014)
Schumacher's son Mick eyes F1 career (September 24, 2014)
Schumacher medical files suspect found hanged (August 6, 2014)
- Schumacher's condition 'improving', says wife (July 11, 2014)
December 31, 2013
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December 31, 2013
© Getty Images
December 31, 2013
© Getty Images