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There are few records in Formula One not held by Michael Schumacher. In a career spanning 20 years, the German has won more races (91) and championships (7), taken more pole positions (68) and fastest laps (76), led more laps (4741), claimed more podium (154) and consecutive podium finishes (24), and scored more points (1493) than any man in the history of the sport.
He won races in 15 consecutive seasons and at 22 different Grands Prix—and still he races on, at the age of 42.
Michael began his racing career in what has become the normal manner, karting from a young age before spending a few seasons in the lower formulae.
Signed by Mercedes and placed into their sportscar programme for 1990, the following year brought the opportunity of a first Formula One drive with Jordan, and Schumacher announced his arrival with a stunning seventh place in qualifying at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Poached immediately by Benetton, Schumacher scored his first win a year later at the same track.
After the dominance of Williams the previous two years, Schumacher and Benetton were ready to challenge for the title in 1994. Following the tragic death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, issues with the car's legality and an ignored black flag at Silverstone allowed Damon Hill to run Schumacher close, and the pair were separated by a single point.
Perhaps one day we'll learn whether Michael deliberately turned into Damon after striking the wall, but until then it'll be debated endlessly. Innocent or not, the collision that took both men out of the race gave Schumacher his first World Championship. He was even more dominating in winning a second title in 1995.
Moving to Ferrari seemed a gamble—the Italian team had spent years in the wilderness—but Schumacher was a winner three times in 1996, and in 1997 was once again in contention for the title, again going into a final race with an advantage of just one point.
Many pointed out that such a situation had occurred before, and the result was very nearly the same. As Villeneuve went to pass, Schumacher deliberately turned into him, ending up in the gravel and out of the race. The Canadian hung on and finished third, enough to take the title. Widely criticised for his moment of madness, a disgraced Schumacher was thrown out of the 1997 Championship.
Michael was back in 1998, again losing out in the final race of the season, this time to Mika Hakkinen's McLaren. The following year, Schumacher's chances were ended by a broken leg, but in 2000 he defeated Hakkinen to win his third World Championship.
It was the start of a period of absolute dominance for the German, and only 2003 saw another driver run him close, as he claimed five consecutive titles and broke almost every record in the sport.
Renault and McLaren overtook Ferrari in 2005, and though remaining as quick as anyone on the grid, Michael perhaps thought he'd been around long enough. He announced his retirement in 2006, before narrowly missing out on an eighth title.
But for Michael, the lure of the grid was too strong. Remaining with Ferrari in an advisory capacity, a back injury prevented him covering for Felipe Massa after the Brazilian's accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, but when old friend Ross Brawn and Mercedes came calling, Schumacher came out of retirement to drive in 2010.
The results were underwhelming, with neither the car nor Michael looking up to speed, but 2011 saw improvements, with occasional signs of his brilliance shining through.
Michael Schumacher will probably race on into his 43rd year, showing no signs of boredom with the sport to which he has contributed so much.
Whether he'll win again remains to be seen, but despite a slightly chequered history, few would begrudge the seven-time champion a final trip to the top step of the podium.