Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver in Formula One history, took another step to becoming the most experienced driver ever by competing in his 300th GP weekend at Spa. And what an historic and significant place to do it. Not only is Spa-Francorchamps one of the most iconic Formula One circuits, it is also the location of Schumacher’s debut as a 22 year old back in 1991. Earlier in the season Lewis Hamilton celebrated his 100th GP and we took a look at his magic formula, but with so many numbers to choose from, what makes up Schumacher’s?
While he made his debut in 1991, and it is now 2012, meaning his career spans over 20 years, he has only raced in 19 seasons, due to his retirement at the end of 2006 and his subsequent return two years later. He has driven for Jordan and Benetton, as well as his high profile years with Ferrari, and now drives for Mercedes, winning seven world championships in that time. Considering the ever-changing nature of Formula One, and the rate at which drivers come and go, it is a testament to Schumacher’s achievements and his skill that he is still on the grid, considering only nine 2012 drivers in Formula One raced in the 2007 season.
30% win rate
His 91 wins are too many to put in the formula by themselves, but as a percentage it can be used. This huge number of wins is a record and Spa features heavily in the list. It was the location of his first win in 1992 and he has gone on to become the most successful driver around there, taming the Belgian track six times. Schumacher also currently holds the record for most wins at the same GP, for the French GP, and is also the most successful Formula One driver around Monza, the track which is the home GP for Ferrari, and at which he announced his retirement back in 2006. His last Formula One victory came at the Chinese GP in 2006 when he challenged Fernando Alonso for the championship, but in the end it was not to be.
Unsurprisingly, this is another record Schumacher holds. That means he has finished on the podium at over half the races he has taken part in, which is no mean feat. His first podium was at the 1992 Mexican GP and during that season he took eight podiums in total. In 1993 he took part in 16 races – he retired from seven and finished on the podium at the rest of them. In 2002, in the middle of his dominant era with Ferrari, where he won the world championship every year from 2000-2004 (inclusive), he finished on the podium at every race – 11 wins, five seconds, and one third. That’s a 100% podium finishing rate which is highly impressive. His most recent podium was at this year’s European GP – his first since his return – and he joined old rivals Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on it.
68 pole positions
In terms of pole positions, wins, podiums, and career points, this is Schumacher’s lowest number! He also holds the record for most pole positions. His first pole position came in his first championship winning year when he secured pole for the Monaco GP in 1994. He has a 58% pole to win conversion rate as well as winning 23 races where he did not start on pole. His most recent pole position came at this year’s Monaco GP, however, he did not start there due to taking a five place grid drop, and he went on to retire from the race.
10 years with Ferrari
In a career spanning two decades you could expect a driver to have driven for a number of teams, however, Schumacher has driven for just four. He made his debut at the 1991 Belgian GP for Jordan before instantly being signed up by Benetton. He drove there until the end of the 1995 season before moving to Ferrari for 1996. In 2006 Schumacher announced his retirement from the sport, however, he soon returned in 2010 to the Mercedes team where he still races today.
He holds the record for most races spent with one team – 181 – after he raced in ten seasons for Ferrari. Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt were viewed as a dream-team, and Schumacher now works with Brawn at Mercedes. He took 72 of his 91 wins for Ferrari as well as five of his world championships. It is probably the most famous and iconic driver-team pairing in Formula One history.
Through his career Schumacher has had eleven team-mates. These include his first team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, British drivers Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert, world champion Nelson Piquet, those who had to play ‘number two’ – Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa, and now he partners Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.
Of course there is no way you can mention Schumacher without his seven world championships. These came in 1994 + 1995 and in his dominant years with Ferrari – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. He came second in 1998 and 2006 (and would have been second in 1997 had he not been disqualified), and third in 1992, 1996 and 2005. He currently lies 12th in the 2012 championship, although has been bugged by car problems all season long.
And so there we have it, the magic formula for Michael Schumacher’s 300 GP career. Take19 seasons, 30% win rate, 155 podiums, 68 pole positions, 10 years with Ferrari, 11team-mates and seven world championships and what do you get? 300 Grand Prix.
Of course let’s not forget all the other records, the fastest laps, the points tally, the controversies, the drama, and the ballsy racing that make Schumacher the driver he is today. His former team-mate Barrichello holds the record for most GP (326) and Schumacher is now just 26 away, meaning that if he stays on another year, he will complete the package and become the most successful AND experienced driver ever in Formula One. But will he stay? We’ll just have to wait and see.