Thursday, December 8, 2011

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher (born 3 January 1969) is a German Formula One racing driver for the Mercedes GP team. Famous for his eleven-year spell with Ferrari, Schumacher is a seven-time World Champion and is widely regarded as the greatest F1 driver of all time.  He holds many of the formula's driver records, including most championships, race victories, fastest laps, pole positions, points scored and most races won in a single season – 13 in 2004. In 2002 he became the only driver in Formula One history to finish in the top three in every race of a season and then also broke the record for most consecutive podium finishes. According to the official Formula One website he is "statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen".

After beginning with karting, Schumacher won German drivers' championships in Formula König and Formula Three before joining Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship. After one Mercedes-funded race for the Jordan Formula One team Schumacher signed as a driver for the Benetton Formula One team in 1991. After winning consecutive championships with Benetton in 1994/5, Schumacher moved to Ferrari in 1996 and won another five consecutive drivers' titles with them from 2000–2004. Schumacher retired from Formula One driving in 2006 staying with Ferrari as an advisor. Schumacher agreed to return for Ferrari part-way through 2009, as cover for the badly injured Felipe Massa, but was prevented by a neck injury. He later signed a 3-year contract to drive for the new Mercedes GP team starting in 2010.

His career has not been without controversy, including being twice involved in collisions in the final race of a season that determined the outcome of the world championship, with Damon Hill in 1994 in Adelaide, and with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 in Jerez.

Off the track Schumacher is an ambassador for UNESCO and a spokesman for driver safety. He has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts throughout his life and donated tens of millions of dollars to charity. Michael and his younger brother Ralf Schumacher are the only brothers to win races in Formula One, and they were the first brothers to finish 1st and 2nd in the same race, in Montreal in 2001, and there again (in switched order) in 2003.

Early years
Schumacher was born in Hürth, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany,[13] to Rolf Schumacher, a bricklayer, and his wife Elisabeth. When Schumacher was four, his father modified his pedal kart by adding a small motorcycle engine. When Schumacher crashed it into a lamp post in Kerpen, his parents took him to the karting track at Kerpen-Horrem, where he became the youngest member of the karting club. His father soon built him a kart from discarded parts and at the age of six Schumacher won his first club championship. To support his son's racing, Rolf Schumacher took on a second job renting and repairing karts, while his wife worked at the track's canteen. Nevertheless, when Schumacher needed a new engine costing 800 DM, his parents were unable to afford it; Michael was able to continue racing with support from local businessmen.

Regulations in Germany require a driver to be at least 14 years old to obtain a kart license. To get around this, Schumacher obtained a license in Luxembourg at the age of 12.

In 1983, he obtained his German license, a year after he won the German Junior Kart Championship. From 1984 on, Schumacher won many German and European kart championships. He joined Eurokart dealer Adolf Neubert in 1985 and by 1987 he was the German and European kart champion, then he quit school and began working as a mechanic. In 1988 he made his first step into single-seat car racing by participating in the German Formula Ford and Formula König series, winning the latter.

In 1989, Schumacher signed with Willi Weber's WTS Formula Three team. Funded by Weber, he competed in the German Formula 3 series, winning the title in 1990. He won also the Macau Grand Prix. At the end of 1990, along with his Formula 3 rivals Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, he joined the Mercedes junior racing programme in the World Sports-Prototype Championship. This was unusual for a young driver: most of Schumacher's contemporaries would compete in Formula 3000 on the way to Formula One. However, Weber advised Schumacher that being exposed to professional press conferences and driving powerful cars in long distance races would help his career. In the 1990 World Sportscar Championship season, Schumacher won the season finale at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in a Sauber–Mercedes C11, and finished fifth in the drivers' championship despite only driving in 3 of the 9 races. He continued with the team in the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season, winning again at the final race of the season at Autopolis in Japan with a Sauber–Mercedes-Benz C291, leading to a ninth place finish in the drivers championship. He also competed at Le Mans during that season, finishing 5th in a car shared with Karl Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointner. In 1991, he competed in one race in the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship, finishing second.

Schumacher has been honoured many times during his career. In April 2002, for his contributions to sport and his contributions in raising awareness of child education, he was named as one of the UNESCO Champions for sport, joining the other eight which include Pelé, Sergey Bubka and Justine Henin. He won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award twice, in 2002 and 2004 for his performances in the 2001 and 2003 seasons respectively. He has also received nominations for the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 awards. No-one has been nominated more times than Schumacher in the award's seven-year history.

In honour of Schumacher's racing career and his efforts to improve safety and the sport, he was awarded an FIA Gold Medal for Motor Sport in 2006. In 2007, in recognition of his contribution to Formula One racing, the Nürburgring racing track renamed turns 8 and 9 (the Audi and Shell Kurves) as the Schumacher S, and a month later he presented A1 Team Germany with the A1 World Cup at the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport 2007 awards ceremony. He was nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award for Sport for 2007, which he won both for sporting prowess and for his humanitarian record.

In 2008 the Swiss Football Association appointed Schumacher as the Swiss ambassador for the 2008 European football championship.

On 30 April 2010, Schumacher was honored with the Officier of Légion d'honneur title from French prime minister François Fillon.

Family and off-track life
Schumacher's younger brother Ralf was a Formula One driver until the end of 2007. Their stepbrother Sebastian Stahl has also been competing as a race car driver. In August 1995, Michael married Corinna Betsch. They have two children, Gina-Maria (born in 1997) and Mick (born in 1999). He has always been very protective of his private life and is known to dislike the celebrity spotlight, preferring a simple life. The family moved to a house near Gland, Switzerland in 2007, a 650 m2 mansion with its own underground garage and petrol station, situated on a private beach on Lake Geneva. The family has two dogs – one stray that Corinna fell in love with in Brazil, and an Australian Shepherd named "Ed" whose entrance to the family made headlines. Schumacher personally drove a taxi through the Bavarian town of Coburg after collecting the dog, enabling the family to catch their return flight to Switzerland. Both Schumacher and the taxi driver were reprimanded by local police.

One of his main hobbies is horse riding, and he plays football for his local team FC Echichens. He has appeared in several football charity games and organised games between Formula One drivers.

On 23 June 2003, Schumacher was appointed as an Ambassador at Large for the Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

In 2004, Forbes magazine listed him as the 2nd highest paid athlete in the world. In 2005 Eurobusiness magazine identified Schumacher as the world's first billionaire athlete. His 2004 salary was reported to be around US $80 million. Forbes magazine ranked him 17th in their "The World's Most Powerful Celebrities" list. A significant share of his income came from advertising. For example, Deutsche Vermögensberatung paid him $8 million over three years from 1999 for wearing a 10 by 8 centimetre advertisement on his post-race cap. The deal was extended until 2010. He donated $10 million for aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. His donation surpassed that of any other sports person, most sports leagues, many worldwide corporations and even some countries. Schumacher's bodyguard Burkhard Cramer was killed in the tsunami along with his two sons.

Schumacher is a special ambassador to UNESCO and has donated 1.5 million Euros to the organization. Additionally, he paid for the construction of a school for poor children and for area improvements in Dakar, Senegal. He supports a hospital for child victims of war in Sarajevo, which specialises in caring for amputees. In Lima, Peru he funded the "Palace for the Poor", a centre for helping homeless street children obtain an education, clothing, food, medical attention, and shelter. He stated his interest in these various efforts was piqued both by his love for children and the fact that these causes had received little attention. While an exact figure for the amount of money he has donated throughout his life is unknown, it is known that in his last four years as a driver, he donated at least $50 million. In 2008 it was revealed that he had donated between $5M and $10M to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park of Bill Clinton.

Since his participation in an FIA European road safety campaign, as part of his punishment after the collision at the 1997 European Grand Prix, Schumacher has continued to support other campaigns, such as Make Roads Safe, which is led by the FIA Foundation and calls on G8 countries and the UN to recognise global road deaths as a major global health issue. In 2008, Schumacher was the figurehead of an advertising campaign by Bacardi to raise awareness about responsible drinking, with a focus on communicating an international message 'drinking and driving don't mix'. He featured in an advertising campaign for television, cinema and online media, supported by consumer engagements, public relations and digital media across the world.

On the eve of the 2002 British Grand Prix, on behalf of Fiat, Schumacher presented a Ferrari 360 Modena to legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar at Silverstone.

On 21 June 2009, Schumacher appeared on the BBC's motoring programme Top Gear as The Stig. Presenter Jeremy Clarkson hinted later in the programme that Schumacher was not the regular Stig. The BBC has since confirmed that this is the case; Schumacher was there on that occasion because Ferrari would not allow anyone else to drive the one-of-a-kind black Ferrari FXX which was featured in the show. The FXX was presented to Schumacher upon his retirement at Monza in 2006.

When Schumacher appeared on Top Gear in 2009, he told Jeremy Clarkson during his interview that the road cars that he drives are a Fiat 500 Abarth, and a Fiat Croma which is his family car.

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