Schumacher: the man for all records
Michael Schumacher emerged from the Belgian Grand Prix with his seventh Formula One championship. The result, says Elmar Dreher, has the placed the 35-year-old German motor racing star among the top league of the world's best sportsmen.
His championship-winning drive in Belgium has taken him to new heights
But Schumacher seems to thrive on being written off or questioned and on Sunday the German gave the best possible answer at the Belgian Grand Prix.
A second-place finish gave him 128 points and - more importantly - a seventh Formula One world championship and a fifth consecutive one.
His championship-winning drive in Belgium on the very track on which he drove his first Grand Prix 13 years ago, has taken him to new heights. The 35-year-old must now surely rank amongst the likes of Cassius Clay/Mohamed Ali, Jesse Owens and Lew Hoad as the best-ever sportsmen.
He already took over the mantle as the best-ever Grand Prix driver last year when he broke the record of five titles that he shared until 2003 with the legendary Argentinian driver Juan Manuel Fangio.
"At the moment it is still a bit too soon to say how I feel. I am sure once the feeling has sunk in, it will be very special," he said immediately after the race.
Schumacher, who is known as a team-man, said that he wished to thank everybody at Ferrari. "Without them this success would not have been possible and it is fitting that I won the seventh championship in Ferrari‘s 700th Grand Prix race."
The German, who learned the ABC of racing on the kart track in his home town of Kerpen, moved on through Formula Ford and Formula Three.
His first start in a Grand Prix came through the misfortune of French driver Bertrand Gachot.
The Jordan driver was involved in a traffic incident with a London taxi driver, whom he sprayed with a CS gas canister. The canister was illegal in England and when he appeared in court a year later, Gachot was jailed for six months.
*quote1*This was just before the Belgian Grand Prix in August 1991 and Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan offered Schumacher a drive. Although he managed to qualify with the seventh fastest time, there was disappointment on race day, as he failed to complete a single lap, having to retire with clutch problems.
A 23-year-old Schumacher however, had impressed enough for Benetton to snap him up from underneath Jordan‘s nose.
Two weeks later, in a venue that was to become like a second home for him, Schumacher - now driving in a Benetton - picked up his first championship points as he finished fifth in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
A year and five days after getting his first drive in a Grand Prix, Schumacher managed his first win - in the Belgium Grand Prix in Spa. Surprisingly, that was two years before picking up his first Grand Prix pole position.
In 1994 - three years after debuting in Formula One - Schumacher won his first world title. After winning the first four races of the season in his Benetton, he went on to add four more in the course of the year, to win the title from Damien Hill.
But while his talents were undisputed, a number of incidents in which he crashed with rivals and allegations of using illegal petrol during his early career tarnished his reputation.
Notwithstanding, he gave his team a second championship the very next year, again winning from Hill, but this time by an incredible 33 points.
The German was then lured away by Ferrari, who were hoping that Schumacher could give them a first world title since 1979, when South African Jody Scheckter won.
It was to take four years, before he finally won the trophy for the Scudetto. During this time, Schumacher also managed to do much to rehabilitate his image.
Since picking up his first championship with Ferrari, he has not looked back - picking up victories, titles and records like no other driver before him.
He currently holds more than a dozen Grand Prix record, including the most Grand Prix led (122), the most podium finishes (135), most fastest laps (64), most race wins (82), most wins from pole (36), most consecutive podium places (19), most consecutive points scoring races (24), most points (1303) and most race wins in a season (12).
One of the few records still eluding the German is that of oldest championship winner. That is a record Fangio still holds with 46 years.
But with Schumacher‘s record of chasing records, only one thing is certain: nothing is certain. And that is something that should send shivers down the spine of other drivers.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Life in Germany, Michael Schumacher