It’s been three years since Michael Schumacher ’s horrific skiing accident in the French Alps, when the legendary Formula One driver fell and hit a rock, smashing his helmet and leaving him in a medically-induced coma.
It was reported that Schumacher had regained consciousness – but little information about his recovery has been made public by his family.
That didn’t stop fans from marking his 48th birthday earlier this week – with tributes, well-wishes and memories of his prolific career pouring in from around the world.
In that spirit, we’ve revisited Schumacher’s top 5 racing moments here.
Keep fighting, Michael.
Ferrari’s reputation in 1996 was a far cry from the glory days of the mid-2000s.
Before the seemingly endless victories, dominant car and championships that would ultimately solidify Schumacher’s reputation as an all-time great, there was his debut with the team.
Fresh off back-to-back championships with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, the young driver was brought onboard in an effort to overhaul the troubled team.
Back then, their F310 was a veritable nightmare. Lacking grip, downforce and balance, the car had no business winning a grand prix. And yet, in the pouring rain in Spain, Schumacher did just that. Starting third on the grid, he initially slipped back in the pack – but, as all great drivers do, he found a way to advance in a seemingly impossible situation.
It was as if Schumacher was driving on a different track entirely, overtaking other drivers with ease in truly appalling conditions. In a race that would likely have been cancelled due to rain today, Schumacher overcame the elements to deliver a sensational first victory for Ferrari – helping cement the rising star’s reputation as one of the all-time greats.
It was a legendary wet-weather victory, reminiscent of Ayrton Senna’s historic drive at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix.
Starting far back on the grid due to a crash in qualifying, Schumacher engaged Williams’ Damon Hill in a lively mid-race battle, as the two sparred over tire strategy in changing weather conditions.
Hill soon opted to head in for wet-weather tires while Schumacher stayed out on his slicks – and ran off the road. Schumacher then opted for wet-weather tires – until the conditions improved and both drivers switched to slicks. And then back to wet-weather tires, when conditions deteriorated again.
Schumacher got a narrow lead on Hill as they exited the pits, and ultimately won the race after Hill couldn’t recover from a time penalty for speeding in the pits.
It was a dazzling way to close out his career (until his return to Mercedes in 2010) – but it was anything but a typical race for Schumacher, accustomed to claiming pole and maintaining first position for many grand prixs.
An early collision with Giancarlo Fisichella left him with a punctured tire—meaning an untimely pit stop that would send him far down the grid.
Undeterred, Schumacher fought his way through the field, overtaking ruthlessly in a passionate attempt to get back into a podium position. His determination was unmatched that day – managing to claw his way into fourth place, he gained a dazzling 55 seconds on Jenson Button, pushing the Brit to the limit as they battled for the podium.
Button managed to fend off his advances. But that didn’t mar Schumacher’s performance, which perfectly embodied his grit and determination to win—despite initial setbacks that would have forced other drivers to concede any hope of a satisfactory finish.
In some ways, the rain-soaked 1997 Belgian Grand Prix was the perfect storm for Schumacher. This was his favourite track—and these were conditions where his talent truly shone.
With the race behind the safety car and Schumacher sitting in third behind Jean Alesi, the stage was set for a truly epic battle. Schumacher dominated the field within laps, building up a 40-second lead and delivering a classic victory.
To this day, this race is textbook Schumacher: unequivocal and unrivalled domination.
In the wet, Schumacher delivered another sensational performance at the 1997 Monaco Grand Prix. The rest of the field disintegrated into chaos, as cars slipped off the wet track and into the tight corners of the famed street circuit.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen started in pole in his Williams, but soon conceded to Schumacher due to tire strategy.
Schumacher never looked back. In a league of his own, he set a comfortable lead early in the race, delivering yet another victory for Ferrari. The German navigated the narrow, twisting, undulating roads of Monaco in the rain with ease, while the rest of the field struggled to simply stay on the circuit.