Renault’s F1 heroes: Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher has spent only one year of his long career with Renault power, in his final season with Benetton in 1995.

However it was to be a very successful partnership, as nine Grand Prix victories and the World Championship title attest.

Born in 1969, Schumacher had already made a name for himself in karting before his quick rise through the ranks of car racing. He finished second in the 1989 German F3 Championship, a performance that landed him a spot on the new Mercedes junior sportscar team for the following year.

He soon proved suited to the powerful Group C machines, while also finding time to win the 1990 German F3 title, along with the prestigious Macau and Fuji events.

In 1991 he focussed on sportscars with Mercedes team mate Karl Wendlinger. However in August he had the chance to drive for Jordan at the Belgian GP. He made a sensational debut, qualifying seventh, although he didn’t complete a lap.

He was quickly headhunted by the Benetton team, and soon began scoring points. He soon formed a successful partnership with Benetton technical director Ross Brawn and designer Rory Byrne, and 1992 he took a memorable first Grand Prix win at Spa, exactly a year after his debut. A second success followed in Portugal in 1993, and then in 1994 the Benetton package proved to be hard to beat as Schumacher won his first World Championship, defeating Williams-Renault driver Damon Hill in the final round in Adelaide.

For 1995 Benetton switched from Ford Cosworth V8 to Renault V10 power, the team joining Williams as a partner of the French company. The season quickly developed into a fight between the two Renault-powered teams, and Schumacher had the upper hand from the off. Indeed the season proved to be altogether more straightforward for him than 1994 had been, although Williams usually had an advantage in qualifying, and Hill and David Coulthard claimed most of the season’s poles.

Michael began the season in style by winning the opening race in Brazil, then followed up with further successes in Spain, Monaco, France, Germany and Belgium. The maiden victory in his home race was particularly sweet, but the middle of the season was soured by clashes with Hill at Silverstone and Monza – both of which led to Schumacher’s Benetton team mate Johnny Herbert winning the race.

Schumacher opened up a big lead and wins in the European GP (on home ground at the Nurburgring) and the Pacific GP at Aida saw him secure his second title with two races still to go. A ninth victory in Japan was a bonus, and he finished the year with eight fastest laps and four poles to his name. Meanwhile Benetton-Renault won the constructors’ title.

It was the end of an era for the team, as for 1996 Michael moved to Ferrari, forming a relationship that would eventually confirm him as one of the greatest drivers of all time. After Brawn and Byrne followed him to Maranello he came close to winning the championship in both 1997 and 1998.

He broke his leg in 1999 before he finally won his first Ferrari title in 2000, following up with four more successes over the next four seasons. At Monza in 2006 he announced his retirement, before losing that year’s title to Renault’s Fernando Alonso at the very last round in Brazil.

After three years away Michael returned with Mercedes in 2010, and was reunited once again with Brawn. After a difficult start he has since proved that he’s lost none of his old motivation.