January 3

This Day in History

Automotive

Jan 3, 1969:

All-time Formula One champ born

Michael Schumacher, who won a record seven Formula One (F1) world championships, is born on January 3, 1969, near Cologne, Germany. In a 16-year Formula One career that began in the early 1990s, Schumacher's numerous F1 accomplishments also included records for most Grand Prix victories (91), most pole positions (68; the most favorable place to start a race, the pole position is awarded to the driver with the fastest qualifying time for the race) and most career points (1,369; an F1 driver earns points based on where he places in a race).

Schumacher, who was a championship kart racer growing up in Germany, made his Formula One debut in 1991 and won his first race the following year, at the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. (Individual F1 events are known as Grand Prix races.) Traditionally based in Europe, Formula One, which has been referred to as the world's richest sport because it costs so much money to participate in, is an elite level of racing in which competitors drive single-seat, open-wheeled vehicles capable of speeds surpassing 230 mph. These cars are typically built by large automakers, known in the racing world as constructors, including Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota. Today, Formula One events are held around the world, with drivers competing for teams that have corporate sponsorship. Formula One racing is governed by the Fédération International de l'Automobile (FIA), which in 1950 named its inaugural world championship driver, Giuseppe Farina of Italy. (In 1958, the FIA awarded its first constructor championship, to the British carmaker Vanwall.)

When he collected his first Formula One world championship in 1994, Schumacher became the first German driver to ever do so. He went on to claim the title again in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. With his sixth championship title in 2003, Schumacher broke the record of Argentine driver Juan Manuel Fangio (1911-1995), who won five world titles in the 1950s.

Though he was one of the most talented and highest-paid drivers in recent F1 history, Schumacher, who drove for the Benetton racing team from 1992 to 1995 and Ferrari from 1996 to 2006, was not without controversy. On various occasions, he was accused of bending the rules and unsportsmanlike behavior, including aggressive driving that resulted in collisions with his competitors.

After competing in the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, Schumacher retired from F1 racing at the age of 37.

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