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Wolff: Schumacher one of the "founding fathers" of Mercedes F1 success

NEWS STORY
03/01/2019

As the media goes totally overboard in celebration of Michael Schumacher's 50th birthday - if nothing else an opportunity to revive interest in the sport at a time of scant genuine news - it is easy to forget how harshly the German was often treated by that self-same media, especially in Britain.

In particular the German was widely criticised for his relative lack of results following his return to the sport in 2010, which in 28 races saw just one podium finish.

The German had been lured back out of retirement by Ross Brawn who had worked with him as he won his titles at both Benetton and Ferrari, and though neither expected further titles to follow, Schumacher's return began the process which was to ultimately reap great rewards, as Toto Wolff admits.

"Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years," says th4 Austrian. "There is no other driver like him and his vast experience contributed tremendously in the development of our team.

"He played a crucial role when we re-joined F1 and was one of the people who laid the foundation for our future success.

"I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zurich to Singapore," he continues. "He was sitting next to me and asked me if I was up for a game of backgammon. I think that I'm a decent backgammon player, but he absolutely crushed me in the first two rounds because I was so star-struck. Once I was over that, my game improved, and we ended up playing and talking for the entire flight. We had a really good and honest conversation and when we landed it felt like I had known him for much longer than I actually did."

"Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula One," he added. "Not only did he set an incredible record - a record that is yet to be beaten - but he also shaped and changed the sport forever.

"As a driver, he took Formula One to a whole new level with his attention to detail and his technical knowledge. He did everything with great determination, from his engineering debriefs to his physical training, and was always searching for new ways to improve his on-track performance."

Schumacher took some of his first steps as a professional racing driver with Mercedes when he joined the brand's junior programme in 1990, racing in Group C sports cars and DTM. Together with Karl Wendlinger, he won the last race of the season in sports car racing - Michael's first and only victory with Mercedes.

He moved to Formula One in the following year, racing for Jordan before joining Benetton with whom he went on to win the World Championship in 1994 and 1995. One year later, he switched to Ferrari, where he laid the foundations for one of the most successful eras in Formula One. He stayed with the team from Maranello for a decade and won five consecutive Drivers' (2000-2004) and six consecutive Constructors' (1999-2004) Championships with the Scuderia.

He retired from Formula One after the 2006 campaign; however, when Mercedes re-joined Formula One as a works team in 2010, he made his return to the series. Working with the team in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart, he played an important role in developing the long-term capabilities of the team that were the foundation of its future success in F1.

Though he never won an F1 race in a Mercedes, he played an important role in the success the team would enjoy in subsequent years.

"We're extremely grateful for everything he did for us," said Wolff. "Today, we all tip our hats to you - happy birthday, Michael"

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Max Noble, 05/01/2019 10:14

"@ClarkwasGod - ...and a very happy New Year to you and yours! Weather here was faultless this year. Between 28C and 33C over Christmas and New Year. Perfect for BBQ and cold beers indeed!

...agree a touch of humility about past “on the edge” behaviour would have been welcome. Sadly like Mr Armstrong, a blessed then cursed son of Texas, the “I was right then, and I’m right now” world view does not help.

Bring on season 2019!
"

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2. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 04/01/2019 20:58

"@Max - my computer cut half my comment out (or dumbness operator error) - I agree with your sentiment. I just wish he had acknowledged his "brutal" acts as such, other than a comment during his return that he might do somethings differently.....many other sports where we could compare (at length over cold ones)!!!!"

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3. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 04/01/2019 14:56

"@ Max Happy New Year! Trust you enjoyed better weather than we had here in Texas! "

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4. Posted by Max Noble, 04/01/2019 1:37

"@ClarkwasGod - yes... it gives me pause and concern that he could be, shall we say, “brutal” in his execution at times. And yet we ask our sports stars to have a “take no prisoners” approach... before promptly getting up set when they do so. Floyd Mayweather just demolished a 20 year old hopeful from Japan (in an exhibition match) inside 120 seconds in the first round. Simply took him apart. And people said “That’s not nice” - Floyd (taking the money) shrugged and highlighted that that was what he was paid to do...

...which is my way of saying I can see both sides... (morally questionable as one of those sides might be...)"

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5. Posted by kdxrider, 03/01/2019 17:12

""@ClarkwasGod you could add to that by saying there just happened to be a ""design freeze"" back then too, which wasn't about to change because of the later big reveal --- Ferrari's "Veto Clause". If you call that skeptical --- well yeah ! maybe --"

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6. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 03/01/2019 15:26

"@ Max & Editor Wolff's words are certainly generous, and I am certainly not qualified to comment on how he might have contributed to the team's rebuilding (although maybe Ross Brawn might have thoughts on that!). However, I still have some reservations about the term "sportsman" when applied to Schumacher. Quite apart from the 3 major instances (1994, 97 & 2006), there are a good many examples of what could, at best, be described as "forceful" driving, at worst, downright dangerous and/or dirty - just ask Barrichello (probably off-record) about how close we was to that pitwall.....
No-one can doubt his record of wins, even allowing for the advantages Ferrari enjoyed during their title dominating seasons, - his '96 win in Spain was an absolute Masterclass - but, for me at least, I cannot help feeling that the "dark" side mitigates against him being regarded as a true "sportsman"."

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7. Posted by Editor, 03/01/2019 11:59

"@ Max & Obi

Michael did indeed give Nico a good run for his money, but that wasn't enough for the (mainly British) media which ripped into him at every single opportunity.

Yet, having constantly criticised Michael for his lack of success (read wins and titles) with Mercedes, when Lewis announced that he was leaving McLaren for the German team he was accused of taking leave of his senses.

Of course, Michael never got to drive the hybrid Mercedes, but if he had…"

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8. Posted by Max Noble, 03/01/2019 11:45

"Great and generous words for a great sportsman. If one considers the run Michael gave Nico for his money it is entirely possible that Lewis’ first World Championship with Mercedes would have been Michael’s had he still been driving for the team when it found it’s (hybrid) mojo...

"

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