The Formula 1 community has been paying tribute to Michael Schumacher on the seven-time world champion’s 50th birthday.
Schumacher remains the most successful driver in F1 history based on drivers’ championships and grand prix victories, with 91 wins to his name in a career that spanned 19 seasons. As he turns 50, a number of messages and tributes have been shared by drivers and former colleagues.
Lewis Hamilton is closing in on Schumacher’s records having taken his fifth drivers’ title last season and currently having 73 wins to his name, and described the German as one of his idols.
“Wishing you a happy birthday, Michael,” Hamilton wrote on Twitter. “50 years of life and a legacy that will last forever. What an honor it is to say that I have raced with you. You’ve always been a true inspiration to me and the entire world. Keep fighting, Champ.”
Five of Schumacher’s seven titles came at Ferrari alongside Ross Brawn. Then technical director at Maranello, Brawn is now managing director of motorsports at F1 and sees Schumacher as someone who changed the sport.
“I think he set completely new standards in Formula 1,” Brawn told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast. “New standards in terms of fitness, preparation, the level of commitment that drivers needed to give. Just take a small example: his fitness. He just raised the bar so much in that respect.
“It’s difficult to compare the physical effort to drive a car now compared to what they used to be but he would finish a race and he wouldn’t be sweating. He’d be leaping around the rostrum and you’d look at the other two drivers on the rostrum and they’d be fatigued and barely able to lift the trophy. I looked at this guy and thought, ‘This is supernatural.’
“He raised that standard and it’s now normal. If you look at any driver in Formula 1, their level of fitness is impressive, and he was — to my mind — probably the first one who attained those levels of fitness.
“Ayrton (Senna) was a very special driver, but I saw him fatigued. I never saw Michael tired. I can’t remember an occasion where he finished a race and he struggled to get out of the car, but I saw that with Ayrton. Even those races where he did 19 qualifying laps, he still bounced out of the car.”
Asked if Schumacher is the most complete driver he ever worked with, Brawn replied: “For me, yes.
“I didn’t work with Ayrton, I didn’t work with Alain Prost or some of those guys, but for me he was.
“For me the most complete driver was Michael, and I think because he was setting new standards in his period. Someone like Lewis — their level of preparation, their level of commitment, etc. — they saw the Michael Schumacher era. They saw what was needed and they found this new reference point that didn’t exist before.”
Alongside Brawn, Jean Todt was Ferrari team principal during Schumacher’s dominant years, and the FIA president added his own short message.
“For his 50th birthday, affectionate thoughts for Michael Schumacher, the greatest F1 champion in history, with unbroken records,” Todt said. “Michael, you have always been a fighter and you always will be.”