Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Michael Schumacher had a major impact on the success his team has enjoyed in recent years.
The Formula 1 world has been paying tribute to Schumacher on his 50th birthday today, a little over five years since the seven-time world champion suffered severe heard injuries in a skiing accident. Schumacher drove for Mercedes from 2010 (pictured above) through 2012 — the team’s first three years back in F1 — and Wolff says the German had a significant influence in facilitating the recent dominance that has seen the team win five straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles.
“Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years,” Wolff said. “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 rejoined 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!”
Wolff says his first interaction with Schumacher came while he was still involved at Williams, and admits he was star-struck given the 91-time grand prix winner’s record in the sport.
“I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zurich 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.
“Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula 1. 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 1 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.”