Ferrari honours one of its all-time greats with a major exhibition at Maranello. Words John Barker.
On January 3, the occasion of Michael Schumacher’s 50th birthday, a special exhibition opened at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, celebrating the career of the seven-time World Champion. ‘Michael 50’ has been put together with the help of the champion’s charity, the Keep Fighting Foundation, and tells the story of Schumacher’s extraordinary record- breaking F1 career: seven world titles, 91 victories, 155 podiums and 77 fastest laps.
The Hall of Victories displays some of the most important Ferrari single-seaters driven in his 11 years with Scuderia Ferrari, from the F310 of 1996, with which Schumacher won three GPs in his first season, to the 248 F1 of 2006, in which he triumphed at the Chinese GP for his 72nd and final victory with Ferrari. There is also the F1-2000 of the legendary Alba Rossa’ (‘Red Dawn’), with which Schumacher secured Ferrari’s first world title since Jody Scheckter 21 years before, and of course the record-breaking F2002 and F2004 cars, the latter which Schumacher drove to an astonishing 13 wins in a single season.
Also on display is a pair of Ferrari road cars. After stopping racing, Schumacher continued to help the F1 team as ‘super assistant’ to team principal Jean Todt, and also helped with development of the 430 Scuderia (2007) and the California (2008). The concept of the ‘bumpy road’ damper button, a feature on a number of current road cars, is also credited to the German.
The Michael 50 exhibition will run for several months alongside the ‘Driven by Enzo’ and ‘Passion and Legend’ exhibitions at the museum (musei.ferrari.com).
‘The exhibition celebrates the career of the seven-time World Champion’
Schumacher’s top five Ferrari drives
Although at times a controversial figure, the brilliance of Michael Schumacher the racer is plain to see in the incredible statistics of his Formula 1 career, not least the five drivers’ titles won with Ferrari in consecutive years. His skill in getting the most from a car was clearly evident, especially in the wet, though another big part of his success was his ability to think about strategy and discuss options with the team, often while reeling off consistent yet scintillating laps. Here we’ve selected five outstanding drives from a truly remarkable career.
Barcelona, June 2, 1996
Schumacher’s first season at Ferrari yielded third in the Drivers’ Championship, which rather flattered the woeful F310. In Spain, he showed that extraordinary skill could turn a dreadful car into a winner. In torrential rain, he took the lead on lap 13 and simply drove away. It was one of the most remarkable displays of skill ever witnessed in F1. At times he was lapping five seconds a lap faster than anyone else.
Budapest, August 16, 1998
The race that showed what a formidable combination the driving skill and stamina of Schumacher and the strategic brilliance of Ross Brawn were, and would continue to be. With the McLarens running one-two, mid-race Brawn figured that Ferrari’s best chance would be to switch to a three-stop strategy. All Schumacher had to do was drive the rest of the race at near qualifying lap pace. Which he duly did.
He couldn’t quite manage an eighth title, but he gave the tifosi so much to remember
Teamwork: chatting with Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn
Malaysian Grand Prix
Sepang, October 17, 1999
The season hadn’t gone as hoped and an accident at the British GP resulted in a broken leg for Schumacher, putting him out for three months. Yet on his return at Sepang he set a pole lap almost a second faster than anyone else. He then led the race easily before dutifully allowing teammate (and current higher points scorer) Eddie Irvine through to take the win while casually holding back their pursuing rivals.
Schumacher leads Irvine and Coulthard (McLaren) at the start of the race
Suzuka, October 8, 2000
Both team and Schumacher performed at their very best to set Ferrari on a course to five consecutive titles. Schumacher was on pole but was beaten into the first corner by title rival Hakkinen, and that’s how it stayed until the second round of pitstops. In tricky conditions, Schumey stayed out three laps longer, the stop was a blinder and he came out in front. ‘The most amazing moment of my racing career,’ he later said.
First Ferrari driver for 21 years to win the drivers’ title, celebrating with Jean Todt
Interlagos, October 21, 2006
There was an outside chance Schumacher could have added an incredible eighth title, which would have been an extraordinary farewell to Ferrari and F1. He had to win at Sao Paulo to take it to the final round but a technical issue meant he qualified 10th, then a puncture dropped him to 20th. Undaunted, he got his head down and scythed through to finish fourth and give the tifosi another memory to treasure.
Ahead of his 50th birthday, the Schumacher family issued a rare statement in which they thanked fans and well-wishers around the world for their continued support for Michael. ‘You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him. Please understand if we are following Michael’s wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy. At the same time we say thank you very much for your friendship and wish you a healthy and happy 2019.’
It’s five years since Schumacher’s life-changing accident. While skiing with his son, Mick, and friends at Meribel in the French Alps, Schumacher went off-piste, fell and hit his head on a rock. He was wearing a helmet but this broke and he suffered a serious head injury. Little has been shared about his condition since, though in 2016 a lawyer for Schumacher stated that reports that he had walked a few steps were untrue.
The family said Michael’s 50th birthday was an opportunity to remember and celebrate his victories, his records and his jubilation. ‘Michael can be proud of what he has achieved, and so are we!’ the family statement continued. The Keep Fighting Foundation recently launched The Official Michael Schumacher App, ‘another milestone in our effort to do justice to him and you, his fans, by celebrating his accomplishments.
We wish you a lot of fun with it.’
After he retired from F1, Schumacher still had input into the road cars, including the 430 Scuderia and the first-generation California, both represented in the exhibition
Left and below
A familiar sight in Schumey’s Ferrari hey-day, celebrating yet another victory, and below: the Hall of Victories brings together many of his winning cars