Michael Schumacher's 25 Best and Most Infamous F1 Moments
With the Formula One world united in wishing Michael Schumacher a speedy recovery from a skiing accident that has left him in a critical condition, we look back on a career that has made him a giant in the sport.
Often brilliant and sometimes controversial, Schumacher has polarised opinion like no other driver before or since but remains the most successful driver in the history of F1.
Here are 25 of his most memorable moments.
25. A Dramatic Start , Spa 1991
Where better to start than at the start of Schumacher’s career. Having been called in to replace Bertrand Gachot at short notice, Schumacher put his Jordan an incredible seventh on the grid, having never before driven the challenging Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Sadly his luck did not hold during the race as he retired with a clutch problem on the opening lap.
But Schumacher had served notice of his talent at a circuit that would provide some of his most memorable moments.
24. Holding off Hill, Spa 1995
Schumacher was not only one of the best qualifiers and overtakers the sport has ever known, but he was also a brilliant defensive driver, as this incredible Eurosport footage from the dramatic 1995 Belgian Grand Prix demonstrates.
Schumacher had emerged ahead of title rival Damon Hill after the final set of stops, but as the rain returned, he found himself having to defend on dry tyres to Hill’s wet rubber.
Instead of pitting again for wets, Schumacher stayed out and try as he might, Hill couldn’t find a way past and Schumacher held on for a brilliant victory.
23. Out-Hustled by Hakkinen, Spa 2000
Schumacher had already won four times at Spa when he came into the 13th round of the season trailing rival Mika Hakkinen by just two points.
The German led Hakkinen after his final stop, but Hakkinen began to reel him in with his set-up more suited to the drying conditions now prevailing.
Schumacher defended admirably on the Kemmel Straight approaching Les Combes, but on the next lap—with the pair coming up to lap Ricardo Zonta—Hakkinen seized his chance with a fabulous overtaking move as he dived to the right of the BAR to slingshot past Schumacher.
Although not one of Schumacher’s finest moments, Hakkinen’s move is regarded as one of the greatest of all time simply because Schumacher was his victim.
22. A Popular Win in Italy, 1998
Schumacher and Hakkinen enjoyed several titanic battles during their championship tussles over the years.
The 1998 Italian Grand Prix was one such occasion where Schumacher came out on top after a stunning drive.
A poor start dropped him to fifth, but having passed Jacques Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine, he found himself third behind the McLarens of David Coulthard and Hakkinen.
Coulthard’s engine then gave out and moments later, Schumacher pounced on Hakkinen, grabbing the lead with a superb overtake before holding out for victory.
21. A Final Podium, Valencia 2012
The last of Schumacher’s incredible 155 podiums came during his final season in the sport and he produced a great drive to do it.
Starting from 12th on the grid, Schumacher took advantage of a safety car situation, a well-timed second stop and the retirements of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to join Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on the podium.
20. A Stunning Monaco Pole, 1996
Like Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna before him, Michael Schumacher gained a reputation as something of a Monaco master.
Like Hill, Schumacher achieved five victories around the Principality, his last coming in 2001. He also secured four pole positions, the best of which is generally regarded as his blistering 1996 effort that saw him take pole by more than half a second from Damon Hill.
19. Winning in the Pit Lane, Silverstone 1998
Arguably the most bizarre of Schumacher’s 91 race victories occurred at Silverstone in 1998, thanks to Ferrari taking advantage of a technical loophole.
Schumacher had received a stop-go penalty for passing Alexander Wurz under safety car conditions, but because it was issued after the 25-minute stipulation, Ferrari chose to serve the penalty on the final lap of the race.
And because the finish line extends across the pit lane, Schumacher technically won the race in the pits while serving a penalty that was later rescinded anyway.
18. Clashing with Hill, Silverstone 1995
Following the controversial finish to the 1994 season, title rivals Schumacher and Hill were at it again in 1995, and this time it was the Englishman who was to blame for their coming together.
Closing on the back of Schumacher’s Benetton and cheered on by a vociferous home crowd, Hill launched a wildly optimistic overtaking move down the inside of Schumacher into Priory and punted both of them off into the gravel trap.
17. Second with a Broken Gearbox, Spain 1994
What defines the great drivers is their ability to shine in adversity.
Ayrton Senna managed to win the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix stuck in sixth gear for several laps, but Schumacher’s achievement of finishing second in the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix was all the more impressive as he had to nurse his Benetton home for almost 40 laps in 5th gear—a monumental feat of concentration and skill.
16. A Surprise Final Monaco Pole, 2012
Schumacher had secured three poles at Monaco going into his final qualifying appearance and he made it four to the delight of the crowd.
Sadly, he was unable to reap the rewards of his efforts in going for a fairytale victory as he was forced to serve a five-place grid penalty for his part in a crash with Bruno Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix.
15. Indianapolis Staged Finish Backfires, 2002
Schumacher had already long since wrapped up the drivers’ title when he attempted to stage a dead heat between himself and teammate Rubens Barrichello at the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
Whether it was to repay Barrichello for his support during the season or embarrassment at what had happened during the team orders fiasco in Austria, it didn’t quite work out as planned with Barrichello crossing the line 0.011 seconds ahead.
Schumacher said afterwards, as quoted on Autosport, that he felt the incident was atonement for what happened in Austria, although it was not planned at the time:
I don't feel particularly happy with what happened in Austria, but from the point of decision we had to make at the time, I understood and we both understood it. With what has now happened, I feel to some degree that I equalised this and I feel I can give him back something where he deserved to win. We said we wouldn't do this (again) and we hadn't planned to do this. It happened, it just happened.
14. Schumacher Flies in the Wet, Spa 1997
Schumacher further cemented his reputation as a wet weather master amidst appalling conditions in the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix.
The race begun behind the safety car for the first time in F1 history and, starting from third on the grid, he soon carved his way past Jean Alesi and Jacques Villeneuve to take the lead before disappearing into the distance and winning the race by a huge 26.753 seconds.
13. DC Endures Schumi’s Wrath, Spa 1998
A year later and Schumacher was again flying in even worse conditions and seemingly on the way to another comfortable victory.
All that disappeared on lap 24 when coming up to lap David Coulthard, Schumacher ploughed into the back of the McLaren, putting himself out of the race.
Incensed by what he thought to be a deliberate act of braking to take him out and help his teammate Mika Hakkinen, a furious Schumacher sought out Coulthard in the McLaren pits and had to be restrained.
Schumacher even went as far as accusing Coulthard of trying to kill him, as the Scot recalled in his column for the Telegraph. But Schumacher later retracted his comments, saying that Coulthard did "nothing wrong at Spa" as quoted in the Independent.
12. Playing Chicken with Barrichello, Hungary 2010
One of the more controversial moments during his return to racing with Mercedes involved a frightening moment with former teammate Rubens Barrichello at the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Defending his 10th place from the Williams, Schumacher seemed to push Barrichello perilously close to the pit wall and he received widespread condemnation for his dangerous driving afterwards.
Schumacher was slapped with a 10-place grid penalty for his actions and later apologised for making the move on his website, as quoted on BBC Sport:
The manoeuvre against him was too hard. I didn't want to endanger him with my manoeuvre. If he had this feeling I am sorry, this was not my intention.
11. The Team Orders Fiasco, Austria 2002
Perhaps the most blatant and controversial use of team orders came at the Austrian Grand Prix of 2002.
Rubens Barrichello had driven a superb race and was cruising to a deserved victory when he was ordered to let team leader Michael Schumacher past. The reason was so he could collect the maximum points in his race for the drivers’ championship.
Barrichello obliged and slowed to let Schumacher past on the last lap to the jeers of the crowd that continued throughout the podium ceremony. In response, Schumacher allowed Barrichello up on to the top step of the podium and even gave him the winners’ trophy.
As a result, Barrichello, Schumacher and Ferrari were fined one million U.S. dollars for the failure to observe Article 170 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations concerning the podium ceremony.
In the wake of the incident, the FIA banned the use of team orders to affect the result of a race.
10. A Stunning First Victory, Belgium 1992
A year after he announced himself to the world with his impressive qualifying performance in his first Grand Prix, Schumacher returned to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to clinch a first victory in F1.
Starting third on the grid, the typical wet Spa conditions played perfectly into Schumacher’s hands and he passed both Ayrton Senna’s Mclaren and Nigel Mansell’s previously unbeatable Williams to take his first win in style.
9. Not This Time Michael, Jerez 1997
Four years after his infamous coming together with Damon Hill at Adelaide, Schumacher was at it again in his attempt to win the title at all costs.
Schumacher led the standings by a solitary point from Villeneuve going into the final race and Schumacher led Villeneuve until lap 48 when, sensing his opportunity to pass, the Canadian made his move at the Dry Sac corner.
It was well timed and Villeneuve looked to have the racing line and was marginally ahead when Schumacher turned in on him, seemingly in an attempt to damage his car.
But this time it backfired and it was Schumacher, not his intended victim, who was forced to retire and Villeneuve went on to take the title.
8. Passing Senna on the Grass, Belgium 1993
A year after claiming his maiden victory in Belgium, Schumacher was involved in a titanic fight for third with Ayrton Senna.
Schumacher had been hounding Senna for several laps before squeezing past with two wheels on the grass after the Brazilian emerged from the pit lane.
7. Monaco Madness, 2006
Schumacher had already been heavily criticised for his actions in Adelaide in 1994 and Jerez in 1997 before being branded a "cheap cheat" by former champion Keke Rosberg for his startling qualifying stunt in Monaco.
Title rival Fernando Alonso looked certain to beat his pole time when Schumacher looked to deliberately park up at the Rascasse section of the circuit.
It left Alonso unable to complete his lap on safety grounds, but the stewards saw through Schumacher’s gamesmanship and relegated him to the back of the grid.
"If he was a real man he would have parked the car in the middle of the road and walked away," Rosberg is quoted in the Telegraph.
"We would have thought much better of him. It was the worst thing I have seen in Formula One. I thought he had grown up. He is a cheap cheat. He should leave F1 to honest people."
6. Ferrari’s First for 21 Years, 2000
Having won back-to-back titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, Ferrari broke the bank to sign up Michael Schumacher with the intention of securing a first drivers’ title since Jody Scheckter in 1979.
The initial year proved tough with Schumacher wrestling with an uncompetitive machine in 1996. He came close in 1997 and 1998 before a broken leg in Silverstone in 1999 hampered his chances, Eddie Irvine almost giving Ferrari the title they craved.
But it all came together in 2000 as victory in Japan sealed the title with a round to spare.
5. Schumi Shows His Emotional Side, Italy 2000
Aside from his extravagant podium star jump celebrations, one criticism labelled at Schumacher throughout his career is that he often didn’t show enough emotion during interviews.
All this changed after Schumacher struggled to keep his emotions in check after victory in the 2000 Italian Grand Prix saw him equal the great Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41 race wins.
4. Tearing Up the Record Books, 2002
Sebastian Vettel’s current winning streak may be impressive but is nothing compared to what Michael Schumacher achieved in his dominant 2002 season.
Schumacher finished either first or second in every race of the season with the exception of Malaysia, where brother Ralf took victory, and had the season sewn up after 11 of the 17 races with victory at the French Grand Prix.
3. A Magnificent Seventh, Spa 2004
The seventh and last of Schumacher’s world titles was sealed at a venue that has played such a significant role in his career—Spa Francorchamps.
Victory in the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix also sealed the German’s fifth title on the trot.
Schumacher dominated the season to the point of monotonous tedium, winning 12 of the first 13 races of the season. It would have been 13 out of 13 had he not crashed out whilst leading the Monaco Grand Prix.
Vettel may be in a class of his own at the moment, but surely this is a feat that is beyond even him and his Red Bull.
2. A Controversial First Title, Adelaide 1994
When Michael Schumacher collided with Damon Hill in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, it secured him his first world drivers' championship but in controversial circumstances.
Schumacher came into the final race of the season leading Hill in the standings by a solitary point; and he led from the start with Hill hounding him until he was pressured into a mistake on lap 36, the German clipping the wall at East Terrace before moving back onto the circuit.
Sensing his opportunity, Hill dived up the inside into the next corner, only for Schumacher to turn in, taking himself out of the race but also damaging Hill’s left-front wishbone beyond repair.
Schumacher has always maintained that the collision was a racing incident, but Hill has often stated that Schumacher deliberately drove into him in his crippled Benetton.
1. A First Ferrari Win, Spain 1996
Michael Schumacher’s first victory for Ferrari, in what was viewed as a handful of a car, is still regarded as one of his finest.
Like so many of his great drives, it happened in wet conditions and he recovered from a poor start to overtake leader Jacques Villeneuve on lap 13, then disappeared into the distance to win by 45.302 seconds.