Schumacher, Michael

Schumacher, Michael
▪ 2002

      On Oct. 14, 2001, German racing car driver Michael Schumacher completed a record-breaking year by winning the Japan Grand Prix, the final event of the Formula One automobile racing season. The victory was Schumacher's ninth in the season's 17 Grand Prix races, a tally he had achieved twice before, in 1995 and 2000. Briton Nigel Mansell (in 1992) was the only other driver to win nine races in one season. Even more noteworthy for Schumacher, however, was his season-ending career total of 53 Grand Prix triumphs, the most ever by a Formula One driver and two more than the previous record of 51 held by retired French driver Alain Prost. His achievements also won for Schumacher his fourth drivers'world title. Only Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina, with five championships in the 1950s, had won more.

      Schumacher was born Jan. 3, 1969, in Hürth-Hermülhein, W.Ger. As a young boy he became interested in go-kart racing, an enthusiasm that was supported by his father's management of a go-kart track in the town of Kerpen. In 1984 and 1985 Schumacher won the German junior karting championship, and in 1987 he gained the German and European karting titles. The next year, at the age of 19, he left karting and became a driver of Formula Three cars, vehicles that were less powerful than the Formula One racers. Two years later, in 1990, he won the German Formula Three championship.

      In 1991 Schumacher moved up to Formula One competition as a driver for the Jordan team. He switched to Benetton the following year and won the drivers' world championship for that team in 1994 and 1995. Before the 1996 season he moved to the Ferrari team, though many thought that he might have won a third consecutive world title if he had remained with Benetton. When questioned about that possibility, Schumacher commented, “I've always been more interested in the way I achieve victories rather than just to achieve them. I had won two championships, so I needed something different.” His younger brother, Ralf, joined him on the Grand Prix circuit in 1997.

      In the 1999 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Michael Schumacher veered off the track at Stowe corner, plowed through a wall of tires at 160 km/h (100 mph), and crashed into a concrete wall. With ambulances and medical teams rushing to the ruined Ferrari, many in the crowd feared that Schumacher would not survive the accident. He emerged from the car, however, with nothing worse than a broken leg. He recovered from this setback to win the drivers' championship in 2000, Ferrari's first drivers' title since 1979. The triumphs of 2001 followed. In May it was announced that Schumacher had signed a contract to drive for Ferrari until 2004. In October, two weeks after completing his triumphant Grand Prix season, he returned to Kerpen and finished second in the karting world championship.

David R. Calhoun

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Universalium. 2010.

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