A few days ago…

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix


On 3 January 1969, Michael Schumacher was born in the small town of Hürth, Germany – he’d go on to become the most successful Formula One driver of all time. For his 50th birthday this week, everyone in the sport has been wishing him well and remembering his legacy as he recovers at home after a life-changing skiing accident. Regardless of what you think of the man, he leaves behind him quite an extraordinary record.

Very few names are so synonymous with Formula One as that of Michael Schumacher. With 91 race wins and seven FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Championships, he is an absolute icon of the sport who has dominated the series like no one else.

Says Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “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, Michael 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.”

Michael 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 Drivers’ World Championship in 1994 and 1995. One year later, Michael 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.

Michael 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 as a driver. Working with the team in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart, Michael played an important role in developing the long-term capabilities of the team that were the foundation of Mercedes’ future success in F1.

“I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zürich to Singapore,” recalls Toto. “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.”

At that point, Michael only had a handful of races with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport left before he retired from Formula One at the end of 2012. He never won an F1 race in a Mercedes, but he played an important role in the success the team would enjoy in subsequent years.

“Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years,” says Toto. “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. We’re extremely grateful for everything he did for us. Today, we all tip our hats to you – happy birthday, Michael!”

Thanks Mercedes.


2012 United States Grand Prix

2011 Canadian Grand Prix, Friday

Sakhir – watch out for turn 1

Just been looking through brake manufacturer Brembo’s analysis of the Bahrain circuit. All the teams now produce quite nice infographics for the GPs which I find really useful.

Definitely one of the most demanding circuits for brakes. The races on the Sakhir track, surrounded by the desert, are characterised by high temperatures that increase mechanical grip, and make it difficult to dissipate the heat generated during braking.

This aspect – combined with the presence of numerous high energy braking sections which are quite close together – makes Sakhir a hard bench test for all the braking system components which are continuously stressed by the high energy forces and the hellishly hot temperatures.

If the drivers want to finish the race, the high wear of the friction material is the biggest danger that must be avoided.

Since 2004, Bahrain has staged 10 Formula One Grands Prix. In the 2010 season the race took place on an extended layout: instead of the usual 5.412 km GP circuit, the 6.299 km configuration was used. The first man to win a race at the Bahrain International Circuit was Michael Schumacher in the 2004 season.

According to Brembo technicians who classified the 21 World Championship tracks on a scale of one to 10, the Bahrain track earned a score of nine on the difficulty index, identical to recently built tracks like Singapore and Baku, which has yet to be used.

Of the eight braking zones half are classified as difficult on the brakes, while the other four are of medium difficulty. The four most challenging braking sections – those with a deceleration greater than 4.4 g – are confronted by vehicles travelling at 300 km/h or just slightly less.

The one feared the most is the Schumacher curve (turn 1) because the drivers arrive at speed that reach 330 km/h and they have to face a 5.2 g deceleration: the braking force required is greater than 2,200 Kw, but more importantly is the brake time (1.76 seconds) which is one of the highest in the entire World Championship.

The four braking sections that have a medium level of difficulty on the brakes are all positioned in the central part of the track and are broken up only by curve 11, where a load of 143 kilos is applied to the pedal.

F1 at Donington


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The unmistakable sound of Formula 1 engines will echo round Donington Park on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May as historic cars stage a series of demonstrations on the first two days of the Donington Historic Festival.

The youngest of the demos will be the 2002 Jordan EJ12 from Takuma Sato’s F1 debut year, the Michael Schumacher 1992 Benetton B192, and the 1990 Camel Lotus 102 (Derek Warwick/Martin Brundle/Johnny Herbert).

The previous two decades will be represented by the Rupert Keegan 1977 Hesketh 308E, 1983 Williams FW08 (Keke Rosberg/Jacques Laffite), the Jean-Pierre Jarier/Piercarlo Ghinzani/Corrado Fabi 1983 Osella FA1-D and two Tolemans. The 1985 TG-185 is Teo Fabi, while the 1984 TG-184 was Ayrton Senna’s regular test car throughout 1984, and is the car in which he caused a sensation in Friday practice for the British GP at Brands Hatch, setting the fastest time in both of the day’s sessions.

Top 10 wealthiest F1 drivers of all time

Thanks to Wealth-X for this. Its list of the top 10 richest F1 drivers of all time includes active and retired race car drivers.

Cruising into first place on the list is seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher who has an estimated net worth of US$780 million. The retired German driver, who last raced for Mercedes in 2012, is currently recovering from a serious brain injury from a skiing accident in the French Alps in 2013.

Schumacher’s wealth represents 43% of the combined net worth of all 10 men on the list, four of whom have retired from the sport.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton came in fifth place on the Wealth-X list with a personal fortune of US$110 million.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg took 10th place with US$30 million in assets.

The youngest driver on the list is 27-year-old Sebastien Vettel, who has a net worth of US$45 million. The oldest is 60-year-old retired Frenchman Alain Prost, who has amassed a personal fortune of US$70 million.

1 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) $780m – Retired
2 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) $220m
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) $180m
4 Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) $180m – Retired
5 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) $110m
6 Jenson Button (McLaren) $100m
7 Alan Prost (Williams) $70m – Retired
8 David Coulthard (Red Bull) $70m – Retired
9 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) $45m
10 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) $30m

(Latest team for retired drivers)

A short note to Michael Schumacher

Mr Schumacher is a great Formula One pilot. In most of this season’s races though, he’s looked decidedly average and his behaviour towards the other drivers has been somewhat erratic.

Some say he’s past it. He’s in an understeering car that was originally designed with Jenson Button in mind. The arguments will run and run.

What bothers me more is the incident during today’s Hungarian GP. In my opinion, it had a cloak of blackness about it and it wasn’t something you’d expect from someone of Michael’s pedigree.

Observing the incident from the front – all was clear. Michael had Rubens Barrichello in his right-hand mirror all the way down the finishing straight. His move to the right – almost planting Rubinho in the concrete – looked pretty deliberate to me. Good job there wasn’t a car exiting the pitlane.

No more of this please Michael. Take a long, hard look at the way you’re driving at the moment. Drivers and others who look up to you are watching.


It’s a shame that a track – for some of a certain age – perhaps best known for the violent death of one of our greatest racers as he ran on the limit (Jim Clark – 1968) should now be associated with an event that demonstrates quite the opposite of true racing.

Team orders at this weekend’s German Grand Prix dictated that one driver – clearly in line for a win – should move over to let his team mate pass and be credited with the win he should have had.

Business and sport are uneasy bedfellows in Formula One. The true fan isn’t sufficiently naive to realise the sport can survive without business money. But business does seem to think it can behave in whatever way it likes.

As my colleague, F1 analyst Joe Saward put it so eloquently in his latest review of the race:

” For the average fan what is important is not just that they watch a straight fight between two competitors, but that the sport itself is portrayed in a good light. Fans are passionate about the sport, about its traditions and they want to be able to say that they are proud of it when challenged by some ping-pong freak or a follower of synchronised swimming.

“…what drives sports fans to spend their money on luxuries such as team memorabilia and very fast cars is not the result, but rather the way results are achieved. They will spend more if they feel an engagement with the team. If it makes them feel good.”

It’s the same feeling I got when Schumacher raced. Again – Joe makes the point which, although talking about Alonso, could easily be applied to Michael:

“There are two ways of winning: one can win in a functional sense and one can win in style…Winning was the goal and the route taken to get there was not important to him.”

It’s why I will never regard Michael as one of our greatest drivers, even though his ‘achievements’ on paper look impressive.

We all admire the skills of those at the top of their game. But we also like to be inspired. And the one thing that F1 isn’t doing at the moment – even though we’ve had the occasional joust and spin – is inspiring the next generation.

Business – take note. Inspired people spend money.

Oh, and by the way, when an engineer informs his driver that the other guy’s quicker, then that driver increases his pace, doesn’t he? He certainly doesn’t slow down and let the other driver by.

And if Mr Massa had led a Ferrari 1-2, the team would still have come away from the GP with 43 points.

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