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Michael Schumacher: Life in the fast lane

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Story highlights

Michael Schumacher won the Formula One title on seven occasions

He made his race debut in 1991 before signing for Benetton

Won his first race in 1992 in Belgium and captured maiden title in 1994

Dominated F1 between 2001 and 2004 by winning five consecutive titles with Ferrari

CNN —  

“There are those who keep out of mischief, and then there are the adventurers,” Juan Manuel Fangio, the pioneering legend of Formula One racing, said in the 1990s.

“We racing drivers are adventurers; the more difficult something is, the greater the attraction that comes from it.

“Michael Schumacher is the greatest of the adventurers.”

He’s not just been an adventurer. He is a man whose image transcends sport, much like Roger Federer, Sachin Tendulkar, Martina Navratilova, Tiger Woods, Pele and Usain Bolt.

The adventurer Schumacher, who suffered a serious head injury in a skiing accident Sunday, is a man for whom winning became an obsession.

He racked up victories, wins and titles – and then some: five consecutive world championship titles between 2001-2004, 56 race victories in six years between 2000-2006, a total of seven F1 crowns and 91 grand prix wins.

After claiming his first two titles at Benetton in 1994 and 1995, Schumacher moved to Ferrari where he would go on to bring about a period of domination.

His 72 race victories and five world titles with the “Scuderia” etched his name into F1 folklore and made him the most successful driver in the history of the sport.

His search for perfection translated to recreational activities such as skiing.

“Schumacher wasn’t a skier when he joined Ferrari, but by the end he was excellent,” British journalist Kevin Garside told CNN. “Each year Ferrari used to have a media week in the Alps in Italy and they would always have a race – and it was always Schumacher who won.”

Few doubted Schumacher’s natural talent, but his desire to win at all costs didn’t always endear him to the watching world.

Ayrton Senna, the triple world champion who was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, remains revered to this very day, while 1950s hero Fangio – a five-time F1 champion – was also hugely popular.

“Schumi” was loved in his native Germany and by the majority of Ferrari fans, but his appeal was not altogether universal, though his skiing accident has prompted a huge outpouring of support for him from around the world on social media websites.

Ruthless streak

Never far from controversy, Schumacher was often criticized for his arrogance and use of unsavory tactics to ensure victory.

That ruthless streak was scarcely more evident than at the title-deciding 1994 Australian Grand Prix where, with his own car already irreparably damaged, Schumacher deliberately collided with title rival Damon Hill.

The crash caused both men to retire from the race, handing the German the title.

Three years later, Schumacher attempted the same tactic again in the deciding race, this time against Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve – only to be disqualified from the championship, giving the Canadian the title.

Then there were the groans of dismay at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix when Ferrari ordered teammate Rubens Barrichello to allow Schumacher to win the race.

In 2006, he was accused of cheating during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix after deliberately stopping his car to prevent his nearest rival, Fernando Alonso, from completing a lap which would have probably given the Spaniard pole position.

Born on January 3, 1969, near Cologne, Schumacher attended the local go-kart track where his mother worked in the kitchens.