7-time Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher has been considered one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. He is right up there with the likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, and several others.
However, the German was never far from controversy during his F1 tenure.
- Wrecking Ball
The 1994 season had culminated in a showdown at the final race in Adelaide. Schumacher and Damon Hill were separated by just a single point. Both drivers were duking it out for their maiden F1 crown. However, it was the German who emerged triumphant. But it was in the most anticlimactic manner as both drivers crashed out on lap 36.
Schumacher had clipped the barrier and sustained damage. In any other scenario, this would mean that Hill was the champion, but Michael had certain designs up his sleeve. Oddly enough, Schumacher kept going, limping back to the pits, later, when Hill came up to overtake, Schumacher punted him out. Both their races were over and Schumacher claimed his maiden title.
- Not This Time!
This was literally a case of ‘fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you’. Michael Schumacher got away scot free three years earlier on Hill. So, he tried the same stunt against Jacques Villeneuve in Jerez. It was deja vu as the German went into the final race with a one-point lead.
On lap 46, Villeneuve was flying and looked set to take the championship. The Canadian attempted to pass Schumacher down the inside when the German turned into him. However, it seemed that Villeneuve was wise to the Ferrari’s ways and Schumacher came off as the big loser.
- Getting Punchy
The 1998 Belgian GP will forever go down in history as the most chaotic race in the history of Formula One. To set the scene, we have a rain-soaked track, a massive pile-up on the opening lap and a lengthy red flag. Add to that, a restart and Schumacher promptly dominating the race. But then it happened, the German came up to lap David Coulthard on lap 25, after the latter’s first lap shenanigans.
The McLaren driver kept to the side to allow Schumacher to pass him safely. However, Schumacher was unsighted due to the amount of spray. What followed next was that German ploughing straight into the back of the Scot. Both cars pitted, the Ferrari literally on three wheels and a McLaren missing a rear wing. The incensed Schumacher stormed round to the McLaren garage determined to square up to Coulthard, which nearly resulted in a fist fight.
- Let Michael Pass for the Championship
This was the day sporting behaviour in Formula One died a brutal death. Inspite of leading the race and on course for victory, Ferrari had other plans for their No 2 driver, Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian was ordered to slow down and allow Schumacher to pass on the final straight, (for the championship, according to Jean Todt). Barrichello resisted initially but relented on the final lap on the main straight, thereby gifting the German the race and the world title. Following an investigation, Barrichello, Schumacher and Ferrari were fined £1 million and “team-orders” officially banned.
- Michael Schumacher stalls in Monaco
When in Monaco, every driver knows that track position is of utmost importance. If you are on the front row, you are almost guaranteed to win, if you survive. Michael Schumacher evidently took this at face value and did literally everything in his power to stop rival, Fernando Alonso. With the Spaniard on a flying lap and looking increasingly likely to claim pole position, Schumacher set his plan in motion. The German ‘parked’ his car at the penultimate corner, La Rascasse, bringing out the yellow flags. It seemed like it guaranteed him pole position, but the FIA were on him immediately. After qualifying Schumacher was stripped of pole and forced to start the race at the back of the grid.
- Is That Even Legal?
Michael Schumacher picked up a stop-and-go penalty at the 1998 British Grand Prix. He went and served it, but the manner in which he did was highly controversial. The German driver found a loophole to complete the race without serving the penalty.
With less than two laps to go, Schumacher was found guilty of overtaking a lapped car while the race was under a Safety Car. The rules of the penalty stated that the driver had to serve the punishment within three laps of the penalty being issued.
The German left it until the last lap to serve the penalty and rather than taking the chequered flag, dived into the pit lane. Ferrari’s pitstop was positioned behind the finish line, allowing Schumacher to complete the race without serving the penalty.
Initially, Michael Schumacher was awarded a 10-second penalty; however, it was later rescinded due to the irregularities in the issuance of the penalty.