Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport boss Toto Wolff has paid tribute to Michael Schumacher on the German’s fiftieth birthday, praising him as one of the founding fathers to the teams’ five-year success.
The seven-time Formula 1 world champion celebrates his 50th birthday on January 3rd, and plenty of tributes have been made on social media celebrating the German drivers’ birthday.
Schumacher became one of the most successful drivers ever in F1 history by winning seven titles, five with Scuderia Ferrari between 2000 and 2004, and two with Benetton in 1994 and 1995. He also holds the record for most wins in F1 with a total of 91, most podiums with 155 and fastest laps with 77. Statistically, he is the greatest driver ever in the history of the sport.
After the 2006 season, Michael decided to retire from F1 with Ferrari but made a return in 2010 with Mercedes, a team led by friend and former Ferrari engineer Ross Brawn. After three years with the team, he retired for a second time after the 2012 season.
Michael’s presence in F1 changed the foundations of the sport, not only by the dominance he had with Ferrari in the early 2000s. He introduced a level of fitness that set the standard for modern F1 drivers and set the standard of attention to detail regarding preparation and analyzing data during a Grand Prix weekend.
Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff, who joined Mercedes after Michael retired in 2012, said he made a tremendous impact to the sport, not only the records and accolades he had achieved in the sport.
“Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula One,” said 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.”
Wolff recalls the first time meeting Michael in 2012 on a flight to Singapore, playing a game of backgammon during the journey and having an honest conversation with the German.
“I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zürich to Singapore. 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.”
In December 2013, Michael suffered a brain injury after a skiing accident. He has been treated ever since and currently lies in his private home in Switzerland. His presence and status on his condition have respectfully been limited due to the privacy the Schumacher family want.
For Michael’s fiftieth birthday, Ferrari is opening a special exhibition paying tribute to the German’s success in F1 with the Italian team. Michael’s charity, the Keep Fighting Foundation, have released the Official Michael Schumacher App which features a virtual museum of Michael’s cars, statistics and stories from his time in the sport.
Wolff added that Michael paid a contribution as one of the founding fathers to the teams’ current success, where the Silver Arrows have won five consecutive titles with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the driver who replaced Michael after the 2012 season.
“Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years,” added Wolff.
“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!”