Of the great many records that Michael Schumacher rewrote in F1, there is 1 that any rewriting of which will take something special. That record relates to the time spent by a driver with a 1 team.
A look at Schumi’s F1 career stats shows that between Y’s 1996 and 2006, he spent 11 seasons running at Ferrari.
That is the longest frame any driver has ever had with an F1 team. Before Mr. Schumacher, it was 9 seasons. Among current drivers, Lewis Hamilton’s 6 seasons at MercedesAMG are the most.
It is befitting then that on 3 January, Ferrari did something they have not done for any other driver who stepped into its F1 cars.
It unveiled an exhibition on Mr. Schumacher’s years at Ferrari at its museum in Maranello, Italy, on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
This is why: Mr. Schumacher is the most decorated driver in F1. Although he raced with 2 teams before Ferrari and 1 after, it was at Ferrari where he burnished his and the team’s aura.
Ferrari and Schumacher was not just a meeting of a Top driver and a Top team. This was a turnaround story that revived Ferrari in results, reputation and spirit and Schumacher was the beating heart of that renaissance.
Over 11 seasons, Ferrari went from being a midfield team to the front-running outfit.
In Y’s 1994 and 1995, Mr. Schumacher won the driver’s championship with Benetton, and things were looking good. But lured by a ambitious FI project and the biggest paycheck in F1 history, Mr. Schumacher moved to Ferrari in 1996. The biggest name in F1 had not won a title since Y 1979.
That would come only in Y 2000, but the years between Y’s 1996 and 1999 were defining in a different way, as Ferrari stayed in the hunt for the driver’s title till the last race.
The Scuderia won 22 races in this frame, including 18 by Schumacher. In the 4 years before that, Ferrari had won just 4 races.
Michael Schumacher, a German, won over an Italian Team with his relentless work ethic, and a manner of expression that could be both clinical and emotional. And in Y 2000 he delivered Ferrari its 1st driver’s championship since Y 1979. The came 4 more titles followed before the competition caught up and overtook Ferrari in Y 2005 and 2006.
At 37 anni, Mr. Schumacher left Ferrari and retired.
He returned 3 years later with MercedesAMG, but that pairing never came close to capturing the euphoria that comes with a partner that gives wings to fly.
In all, Michael Schumacher raced 180 times for Ferrari over 11 consecutive seasons, combining longevity with success: 72 race wins, 116 podiums and 5 driver titles.
He also finished 2nd on 3 occasions and 3rd on another 2 occasions.
Notably, those years raised the bar of expectations at Ferrari where the goal every year, and with every signing, is a Championship.
There have been other long driver-team combinations in F1, but none as unique as Schumacher-Ferrari. Some were long, but they neither operated at the top end nor yielded similar returns.
At his current pace, Lewis Hamilton at MercedesAMG could end up overhauling Michael Schumacher’s success numbers with Ferrari.
If he keeps winning, Mr. Hamilton could even reset many records that Mr. Schumacher lifted to astonishing levels in his Ferrari run.
Hamilton-MercedesAMG will be a great tale too it seems
The Australian Grand Prix is in 71 days, stay tuned.
Have a terrific weekend.