As Michael Schumacher fights for his life, we look back at the F1 legend’s love for speed & risk
Formula One legend Michael Schumacher may have retired in 2012 after a glittering career but his love for speed and danger has now led to a serious head injury while skiing in France.
After years of racing in the high risk world of Formula One and winning a record seven world titles, his accident suggests that perhaps retirement has not dulled his relish of dangerous pursuits.
Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher races at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps, Belgium in 2011. PIC/Getty Images
As a F1 racer, Schumacher was known for his daring overtaking manoeuvres, his at-times almost reckless abandon in the pursuit of victory and his mastery of the tricky conditions presented by rain.
When he won his first world title in 1994, he did so in controversial fashion, crashing into his title rival Damon Hill in the final race after he had already scuppered his own hopes by going off the track.
It was indicative of Schumacher’s win-at-all-costs attitude and his willingness to take huge risks in order to do so.
He almost provoked a similar crash in the final race of the 1997 season when battling Jacques Villeneuve for the title, an incident for which he was retrospectively disqualified from the whole season.
His career was also punctuated by accusations of dangerous driving following incidents such as a near collision with ex-teammate Rubens Barrichello in 2010, which the Brazilian later described as “the most dangerous thing” he had been through. But even such mishaps didn’t slow Schumacher down or quench his thirst for success as he went on to win five successive titles with Ferrari from 2000-2004.
He retired at the end of the 2006 season before making a damp squib of a comeback in 2010 with Mercedes.
Horror bike accident
But during his retirement he survived a horror accident that knocked him out when racing a motorbike in Spain.
Even so he is the sport’s most decorated champion with a record 91 GP wins. Schumacher’s duels in his hey-day with Hill, Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen, fired by an unquenchable competitive spirit, have gone down in F1 folklore.
Schumacher was born in 1969 near Cologne, the son of a bricklayer who also ran the local go-kart track, where his mother worked in the canteen.
By 1987, Schumacher was the German and European go-kart champion and had left school to work as an apprentice mechanic, although he was soon racing professionally. In 1990 he won the German F3 championship and was hired by Mercedes to drive sports cars. Just a year later he burst onto the F1 scene, qualifying seventh for Jordan in his debut. The youngster was immediately snapped up by Benetton, where he won his first F1 race in 1992. Since then, Schumacher won seven titles.
But his greatest ever battle may just be commencing as the father of two finds himself battling to recover from a serious accident.